Gliding into the XVIII Pan American Games

Posted On Wednesday July 31, 2019
L-R: Jaclyn Stelmaszyk and her partner, Kate Haber, take a break from training for Team Canada in Victoria, British Columbia. The pair will compete in the Women’s Lightweight Doubles at the XVIII Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. (Photo credit: Maksym Kepskyy)

Uxbridge Secondary School (USS) alumna and Team Canada rower Jaclyn Stelmaszyk is on her way to Lima, Peru for the XVIII Pan American Games. Competing in the Women’s Lightweight Doubles with her partner Kate Haber, Stelmaszyk will join approximately 6,700 athletes, representing 41 countries from the Caribbean, Central America, and North and South America in the world’s third-largest multi-sport Games.

Like many athletes, Stelmaszyk’s journey to high-level competition wasn’t a straight line. After graduating from USS, she enrolled at Western University to become a registered dietician. She continued to train while at Western, but in 2011 decided to take her rowing career to the next level by pursuing her passion in Poland, leveraging her dual Canadian/Polish citizenship for additional training and competitive opportunities.

The Pursuit of Excellence

Thanks to the opportunities available abroad, Stelmaszyk has earned an impressive collection of medals. Some of her rowing career highlights include a gold medal at the Canadian National Rowing Championships in 2010 (Lightweight Women’s Single), gold medals at the Polish National Rowing Championships in 2011 and 2012, a gold medal for Poland at the World Cup III in 2012 and another gold medal for Poland at the World Championships in 2013. All of these medals were in the Lightweight Women’s Quad event.

“I love the pursuit of excellence and being my best,” says Stelmaszky. “I love knowing that when I go to the line, it’s time to lay down my best performance. Obviously, you want to win, but knowing you’re well trained and prepared for competition and then competing — it’s a beautiful thing.”

Stelmaszyk took time away from rowing to start a family and build her career, but her dream of a return to competitive rowing persisted. “I stepped away, but in the back of my mind I was always like, ‘maybe I’ll make it back one day, but it’s not the time,’” explains Stelmaszyk. “A lot of rowers when they retire, they give away their spandex and I just couldn’t let mine go. I just had this feeling I needed to hold on to it. And sure enough, here I am.”

Every Day is a Privilege

Her rowing coach from her high school days at USS, Sue Palmer, remembers Stelmaszky’s passion and love of the sport. “Jackie certainly developed a passion for rowing while at USS, which makes me very happy, very proud of what she has done, is doing and will do,” gushes Palmer. “But her natural abilities to learn quickly, to adapt easily to the many commitments required to be a successful rower, to fit in with the established people and program and to focus on what’s important to be successful — then, as now — have most contributed to her current astounding achievements.”

For Stelmaszky, every medal won is another step closer to, hopefully, one day representing Canada at the Olympics, and she has no intention of stopping. “If you believe in your heart you can do it, then commit,” says Stelmaszky. “Don’t let other people tell you who you should or shouldn’t be. If you believe you’re going to be good at this, keep chipping away at it and keep the faith. Every day is a privilege to represent your country, so just enjoy the journey.”

The rowing portion of the XVIII Pan American Games happens August 6 – 11th and the Durham District School Board will be cheering all the way. Good luck, Jackie!