NEWS
06/27/2016 12:42 EDT | Updated 06/28/2017 01:12 EDT

Alone in 2012, Fournel glad to have company on Canadian Olympic paddling team

MONTREAL — Emilie Fournel is glad to have some female company on Canada's paddling team at the 2016 Olympics.

While Adam van Koeverden, Mark de Jonge and Mark Oldershaw were winning medals at the London Games four years ago, Fournel was the lone woman on the canoe-kayak squad.

This time the kayak singles sprint racer from Montreal has joined her training partner Andreanne Langlois of Quebec City as well as the two-man kayak duo of Genevieve Orton of Lake Echo, N.S. and Kathleen Fraser of Oakville, Ont., on a nine-member Canadian team that officially received their team jackets on Monday.

"It's very special because this time around it was very important to share the adventure with people, as much for me as for them," said Fournel, who will compete in her third Olympic Games. "In Canada we have tremendous talent.

"The girls are strong and dedicated to their sport and I knew there was no way it was only me who could do it."

Oakville's van Koeverden, de Jonge of Halifax and Oldershaw of Burlington, Ont., are back on the men's team along with slalom racers Cameron Smedley of Dunrobin, Ont., and Michael Taylor of Ottawa.

A Canadian woman paddler has not won an Olympic medal since Caroline Brunet of Quebec City took silver at the 2000 Games and bronze at the 2004 Olympics. There were six Canadian women each at the Games in Sydney and Athens and seven at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Fournel said the team had a serious setback when it's four-man kayak team lost at last summer's world championships, which served as a qualifying meet for the Rio de Janeiro Games. She and Langlois then trained together to make it in individual events, with Fournel set to compete in the 500-metre sprint and Langois in the 200-metre event.

"We really bonded," said Fournel. "I was there to get her through the tough moments and she was there to just be the smiley, happy person because she hasn't done it before.

"It was a good mix and it pushed the level for both of us and we got the Olympic qualification."

Fraser and Orton needed to win a race-off on Friday against Maddy Schmidt of Ottawa and Michelle Russell of Dartmouth, N.S. to secure a trip to Rio. It was especially sweet for Orton, who fell short of qualifying for the last two Games.

"To this point, it's been the push to qualify but I'll be in Toronto starting next week and we'll sit down and hammer out what our goals are for the Games," said Orton. "We're not just happy to be there.

"We want to perform. I imagine somewhere in the top six would be a good performance for us."

Van Koeverden has medalled at three straight Games, taking gold and bronze in 2004 and silver at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, while de Jonge and Oldershaw each have Olympic bronze on their resumes.

All three will be in contention for more prizes in Rio, although Oldershaw says it is not getting easier.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," he said. "I've been lucky to be part of this sport, which has grown even in the last four years.

"My event (canoe 1,000-metre sprint) has got faster and faster every year. It's been really exciting to see the times drop and be part of it and be one of the guys that's in contention. There are a lot of young guys pushing the level of the sport, but I've raced them all and I know what to do."

With the others training overseas, Oldershaw was the only male team member to attend the ceremony.