Though high performance athletes normally have to choose between following a career path or pursuing athletic ambitions, Saanich chiropractor Derek Vinge is proving the exception to the rule.
Vinge, 28, is the oldest rookie on Rowing Canada’s 22-member team at the Pan Am Games, which run tomorrow through Oct. 30 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“It’s a long way from the learn-to-row lessons I did (for one month) nine years ago,” Vinge said. He will sit second in the lightweight four with Travis King (Grimsby, Ont.) at bow, Eric Woelfl (St. Catharines, Ont.) at third and Terence McKall (Edmonton, Alta.) at stern.
Even with a history of competing as a high performance athlete, this rookie virtually walked onto Rowing Canada’s team for the Pan Am Games upon arriving.
“In the grand scheme of things Vinge is very new to the sport of rowing,” said Rowing Canada development coach Chuck McDiarmid.
“The changes he’s made over a short period of time are quite amazing. Hopefully competing at the Pan Am Games will give him a taste of what he is capable of and encourage him to continue on his development pathway.”
Most of Canada’s Pan Am team is still competing for a university or recently finished at one, as it usually takes years to gain full-time Rowing Canada athlete status. (Victoria’s 19-year-old Patricia Obee is another exception, having won silver at this year’s world championships.)
But it hasn’t been years for Vinge – in fact, it was only one year ago that he first made waves at the Victoria City Rowing Club.
In November 2010, just three months after he first showed up to row, Vinge caught the attention of Rowing Canada by recording an erg score (ergometer rowing machine) that ranked him sixth among Canadian amateurs. Naturally he was launched onto Rowing Canada’s radar of amateur athletes.
Rowing Canada’s group at the Pan Am Games is mostly a development team with a bit of Olympic experience mixed in, such as 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Melanie Kok.
The first step for any Canadian rower is to get into that development system. And for Vinge, it happened in the blink of an eye.
“I like to think it has to do with my physiology and training, which chiropractic (medicine) is all about – (executing) proper positioning, posture, muscle techniques, and lifting weights,” Vinge said.
That’s not to say he wasn’t pleased with instant success.
Like a good pupil, Vinge took his rowing coach’s instructions to heart and took his daily independent workouts seriously.
“The time (Vinge) spent training in a (single scull) has helped him understand the dynamics and feel for the water,” McDiarmid said. “This has helped him make the technical changes needed to fit into the four.”
As a teenager from Fernie, Vinge made the University of B.C. Thunderbirds’ track and field program, and was 11th in the marathon championships for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Since then he completed chiropractic schooling in Oregon and now practises at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence at Camosun College.
For the highly-competitive Vinge, making the Pan Am Games is the final accomplishment on a list of rowing goals he set for himself back when he started.
“Now it’s a completely new list. The Olympics is pretty exciting, and it’s on there, but for me it’s such a long shot.”
Among the rowers in Mexico with local connections are UVic Vikes’ Kai Langerfeld in the men’s (heavyweight) four and eight, Joshua Morris in the men’s eight and Eric Bevan in the men’s double.