As Andrea Proske of Langley waited for the start of the women’s double sculls race at the World Rowing Cup regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland with fellow Canadian Gabrielle Smith, a Eurovision television announcer referred to the “amazing rise this Canadian oarswoman has had.”
He didn’t go into detail, other than mentioning the three intensive months Proske had recently devoted to working on her technique.
Then, he went on to talk about the favourites in the A final of the last World Cup before the World Rowing Championships in September, the New Zealand, United States and Netherlands teams.
Less than seven minutes after the starting horn sounded, the same announcer was gushing about the Canadians, who led in the early stages of the race and held on to finish just behind the New Zealanders to take silver in the July 15 event.
As it became apparent the Canadian duo was more than holding their own, the announcer remarked on their “beautiful sweeping sculling style.”
“It’ll be a fantastic performance if they can take the silver,” he said.
And when the Canadian duo did just that, he couldn’t help remarking on the age gap between the 32-year-old Proske and her 23-year-old teammate and pretty much every other rower.
“You don’t often see somebody 32 years of age make a splash, really,” he said.
“If you look back on rowing history, there isn’t anyone (that age) the world has seen.”
It was also remarkable considering it was the first international regatta for Proske, with Smith having raced once at the under-23 level. The two had only been rowing together for three weeks before taking on the best in the world.
And then there was the story about how Proske came to the sport, taking the gamble to quit her job and dedicate herself to rowing.
A Times profile in 2016 described how Proske discovered the Row to Podium program at 27, a Canadian identification and development program for rowing designed for athletes with no experience in the sport.
She went on to become a national champion, and a top-ranked international competitor.
At the time, Proske was working as a manager for the call centre and room service departments at the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver.
It was a good job, but she walked away from it to pursue her dream, with the blessing of her father, Henry Proske, who told her, “You only live once, and you don’t want to go through life thinking ‘what if.’”
After her first year training in Burnaby Proske knew she had found her sport.
Proske is one of three rowers from Langley who are on the Canadian National Womens Rowing team along with Lisa Roman and Kristin Bauder, both seasoned international rowers and National champions.
Roman also won silver at the World Cup in Lucerne in the women’s eight. The Canadians held off a late challenge by the USA to finish behind the New Zdealand rowers. Bauder did not attend the World Cup.