Olympian Cristy Nurse

Posted on Mar 05, 2018
Rotarian Jennifer Savini introduced today's guest speaker, Olympian Cristy Nurse.  Cristy obtained an Honour Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph where she was awarded Academic All-Canadian status, a distinction recognizing varsity athletes who maintain Dean's List standing and received the Marion McKenzie prize as the University's top student in Canadian history.  She subsequently attended the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law, graduating cum laude in 2013 and is now articling with Templeman Menninga in Belleville.  Cristy's impressive background is certainly being built upon as a very promising soon-to-be lawyer.  She also brings a very positive outlook and is a pleasure to work with.  Jennifer was pleased to welcome Cristy as our guest speaker today. (pictured L to R:  Tara Lyons, President Tracy Bray, guest speaker Cristy Nurse, Jennifer Savini)
Cristy thanked President Tracy and Jennifer for asking her to speak today.  She wasn't immediately sure how she would tie in to International Women's Day and the theme of "strong women".  In the literal sense, as an Olympian, Cristy said she could talk about physical training or nutrition, but in the interests of full disclosure would have to say that McDonald's is by far the most popular food spot in the Olympic Village.  For the years Cristy spent at the national training center in London, Ontario, she was constantly surrounded by women who were multi-time Olympians, who had collected multiple degrees in various subjects, who volunteered in the community.  The concept of "strong women" was not discussed because it was simply the norm.  The thing that marked those on the squad who had the greatest success was just resilience, which is mental strength, not physical.  Those were the ones willing to pursue a goal whole-heartedly, even in the knowledge that it may not be achieved.  Cristy thinks community groups who make the greatest impact show the same resilience, having big dreams and goals for their community, but facing obstacles in organization and fundraising and red tape.
Being surrounded by strong women taught Cristy to realize there would be setbacks, perhaps outside of her control, but how she responded to those setbacks was entirely within her control and she learned that they would shape her whether the path ends or simply continues in a different direction.  Cristy started rowing in the summer of 2006.  Despite having zero experience, her height and background as a varsity basketball player led to baptism by fire.  She was placed directly into a boat for the competitive racing season.  She raced her first regatta about a week and a half after taking her first stroke.  A few weeks in, a guest coach appeared at the club who had formerly coached the New Zealand national team.  Under this coach's sometimes brutal, but always honest guidance, Cristy was able to win an under 23 national title by 2008 and got herself on the national team's radar.  In the spring of 2010, Cristy moved to the National Training Centre in London with a goal to make the development team that would represent Canada at the World University Games.  That year in New Zeland, surrounded by veteran teammates, Cristy and the team collected a silver medal, Canada's first medal in the event since 2003.  They did the same in 2011 at the World Championships in Slovenia.  Following that, months were spent training Florida in preparation for the London Olympics.  The team went to Lucerne for the first world cup competition and although they lost by about a hundredth of a second to the Americans, they felt as though they were peaking at the perfect time.  The team decamped to their training base in Italy to prepare for the final World Cup in Munich, the last regatta before the London Olympics.  Sadly, Cristy had been experiencing nagging hip and back pain and an ability to stay balanced in the boat.  Her coach pulled her aside and told her she would be heading back to Canada for an MRI and treatment so she would be ready for the Olympics.  Unfortunately, after months of treatment, it was decided to be too risky to compete at the Olympics, so Cristy travelled as a spare with her team, but not in the boat when it lined up to race.  Emotionally, this was a very difficult time for Cristy and she had to remind herself that only 10,000 athletes get to be part of an Olympics and she was one of them.  She was proud of her teammates and the program and decided she could be very satisfied with what she had already accomplished.   She agreed to attend a training camp in California, back in the boat and a year after London, picked up silver and bronze medals at the world championships in Korea.  Her injury issues continued to plague her though through 2013 and 2014.  Following a last ditch medical appointment with yet another specialist, the doctor was confident that a series of injectables would get her moving again.  With nothing to lose, Cristy had the first procedure and it worked!
Cristy was given a seat in the Olympic boat in Rio in 2016 and although finishing 5th, was content that she had done everything in her power to make that race the best possible effort.  When she looks back on her career in rowing, Cristy recognizes that she had some great luck and some not so great luck.  In sport, and in any other pursuit where you really care about the outcome, you will give so much of your time and effort and there will always be a chance it doesn't give back.  But if she had stopped after London, Cristy would never have known how far she could go as an athlete.  And in the end, Cristy feels never knowing whether a goal could be achieved is far worse than the fear of not succeeding.
Tara Lyons thanked Cristy for her inspirational presentation.  Congratulations to her and all the athletes.