Former Victoria rower Doug Vandor to lead Canada's team to Pan Ams

Two-time Olympian Doug Vandor said his 12 years rowing on Elk Lake shaped him not only as an athlete but as a person.

That life experience will be put to use next summer in a different capacity as Vandor was named Monday as chef de mission for the Canadian team to the 2019 Pan American Games from July 26 to Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru.

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“Elk Lake meant a lot to me and made me who I am today,” said Vandor, a 44-year-old father of two.

McGill-grad Vandor moved to Victoria from Dewittville, Que., in 2001 to be with the national team program and represented Canada in the lightweight double at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics before retiring in 2013.

Vandor won eight World Cup and three world-championship medals and gained a reputation as one of the most deeply committed and hardest-working rowers on Elk Lake, which is saying something, because the lake was full of highly-motivated strokers.

“I was deeply passionate about rowing and spent most of my adult years on Elk Lake. It is the place in the world I have spent the most time and it left a huge imprint on me and made me who I am today. I was not a naturally-gifted athlete. But when you do something you love, you work hard at it by default. For me, that led to a lot of great things.”

It’s easy to see why the Canadian Olympic Committee selected Vandor to lead the Canadian team to Lima.

“Douglas is the ideal individual to fill the position of chef de mission for Lima 2019,” said former Olympic rower and COC president Tricia Smith.

“A multilingual and talented athlete who represented Canada for over ten years, and at two Olympic Games, he has also worked behind the scenes with multiple national sport federations. Doug will be great in his role supporting our Pan Am team athletes.”

The Pan Am Games, however, conflict with world championship years in rowing, swimming, track and field and men’s basketball, so Canada only sends ‘B’ teams in those sports. Hence, the irony is Vandor was busy in the FISA world championships during his rowing career and so never competed in the Pan Am Games.

But the Pan Am Games are a direct Olympic qualifier in other sports, so Victoria-based Canadian teams such as in surfing and women’s field hockey will be sending their full teams to Lima as they look to stamp their tickets to Tokyo 2020.

The Langford-based Canadian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams will end their respective 2018-19 World Series tours, which are direct Olympic qualifiers, in June. So Rugby Canada has the option of sending either the full national sides, or a mix of veterans and development athletes, to the 2019 Pan Am Games.

“The Pan Ams are a mixed bag,” said Vandor, who has dabbled in several sports administration positions, and the culinary arts, since moving to Vancouver in 2013.

“But they are important for all the athletes who will be competing, whether it’s their Olympic qualifier, or whether they are younger Next Gen athletes who are getting their first taste of an international multi-Games experience and looking at this as an opportunity in which to develop and launch their international careers. Then there are the athletes in non-Olympic sports [squash, racquetball, bowling, roller sports, water-skiing and wakeboard] and this will be one of the top stages on which they will compete in their careers.”

The Canadian team numbers for Lima will be decided through next spring and summer.

“It won’t be as big as the team to the last Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015, for obvious reasons because we were host, but it is still an important event for us across the board,” said Vandor.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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