“I fell in love with kayaking” -Florence Hamel

“I fell in love with kayaking” -Florence Hamel


Olympian in Sydney in 2000, kayaker Liza Racine could relive the frenzy of the Games as her daughter turns heads and establishes herself as one of Canada's brightest hopes.< /p>

Only 16 years old, Florence Hamel has just returned from the World Junior Championship (U-18) in Szeged, Hungary, where her mother was also present for a job with Kayak Canada.

Although she has only been kayaking full time for two years, Hamel has been rowing since she was a child. She was introduced to kayaking at the family cabin, on the edge of Lac Sergent, in Portneuf. 

“ I slept in my mother's old room at the cabin where I could see all her accreditations for the major events and his medals from the Canadian championships and the PanAms. It is now my turn to compete on the international stage. 

“From my beginnings at Lac Sergent, I fell in love with kayaking, continues the fifth-grade student at Collège Sainte-Anne, in Lachine. When I joined the Lachine club, I fell in love even more. We have a good training group and that motivates me even more. 

The Olympics in his sights

Hamel doesn't hide his goals . 

“I have always dreamed of participating in the Olympic Games, says the one who has taken part in the Regatta of Olympic hopefuls for the past two years. It is a long term goal. In 2024 in Paris, I will only be 19 years old and there is a strong cohort ahead. It is more realistic to think of the Los Angeles Games in 2028. ”

Is the daughter ahead of the mother at the same age? 

“It's not comparable,” says Racine, who missed the Athens Games in 2004 due to a herniated disc. I rowed all crooked at his age and I had no knowledge. Florence is way ahead of me. I never made the Canada Games or the World Juniors and it was a long time before I earned my place on the Canadian team. ”

Racine is happy to see the progress of his girl, but she's even happier with her state of mind.

“I'm thrilled to see her happy, expresses the one who played a role as a reservist in Sydney. She works hard, she is passionate and wants to surpass herself. This desire to excel in sport also brings a taste for excellence at school. »


If she doesn't interfere not in training her daughter, Racine makes sure Florence has fun. 

“ I have suffered a lot from performance anxiety during my career and I want to make sure to share this experience as much as possible. Mental health management is very important. I make sure she is having fun and kayaking for the
right reasons.”

In preparation for the world juniors, Racine coached Florence for a week, but she left all the room to the coaches of the Canadian team at the time of the competition.

« I erased myself, image Root. We created a healthy break. It is important that she develops a relationship with her coaches. In addition to looking after her mental health, my responsibility is to make sure she eats well and avoids injuries. At the Lachine club, she is in good hands. »

Precious advice

Difficult to lead an athlete whose parent has evolved at the highest level? 

“It depends on which parent, underlines the coach- head of the Lachine club, Dominic Gomez. In Liza's case, she trusts me and it's easy. She has more experience than me and I can learn from her. My father [Franck] who leads the Quebec team can give me a hand if I need help. ”

Florence does not hesitate to consult her mother.

“The day before competitions, I can be very anxious and it's fun that my mother can share her experience with me,” she says. She can understand me. I am very independent, but the presence of my mother after a bad race is reassuring. I can open up completely. » 

Florence Hamel impresses her trainer 

At just 16, the kayaker qualified for the Worlds juniors

Florence Hamel and her partner Alina Tverie at the World Junior Championship in K-2 500m.

The young athlete broke down barriers by qualifying at the age of 16 for the world junior championship.

Her potential was visible, but she rose through the ranks faster than expected .

“I could see her potential in training as she beat the boys, but it's impressive and rare for a 16-year-old to qualify for worlds which are for 18-year-old athletes only. and less, says his coach at the Lachine club, Dominic Gomez. The few times a 16-year-old qualified, she did it by the skin of her ass.”

“Florence's selection was obvious, Gomez continued. She easily won her place. I could see that she was a good racer, but she impressed me in the race. She still has two years of junior eligibility.”

By winning the K-2 500m event with Alina Tverie at the National Trials, in addition to finishing second in K-1, the Montreal kayaker earned her ticket to Hungary. In Szeged, Hamel won the B Final in K-2 500m and finished third in the B Final in K-4 500m.

“His seventh place in K-1 at the Olympic Hopes Regatta is very good,” said Gomez. The next step is for her to qualify again for the worlds, which is not done yet even if the chances are very good. Next year, we will think about performances and a podium in his last junior year. 

Hamel tasted his experience. 

“It was really a great experience in Hungary to face older girls,” she says. I want to continue racing internationally. Because the World U-23 Championship was happening at the same time, I was looking forward to seeing and talking to some of the girls I consider role models who had competed at the Senior Worlds earlier in the summer in Halifax. »


Liza Racine wants to make sure her daughter doesn't skip any steps. 

«&nbsp ;For the moment, the priority is that she gains strength and not that she accumulates the kilometers on the water, she explains. Camps in Florida are a good thing, but it's important not to burn it. She is a student first and foremost. 

Racine is inspired by the philosophy advocated by Louis Bouchard, who directed the founder Alex Harvey throughout his career. 

“ Louis prioritizes human beings and I love his vision. It doesn't work to develop scoring machines. When an athlete performs well, especially at this age, you have to keep the balance. »

The help from the father

Gomez agrees. 

“I don't see the point of spending long camps in Florida at this age,” he says. You have to go there for a shorter period to make you want to go back. She mustn't lose her taste for rowing.”

At the Lachine club, Hamel can count on the advice of Dominic Gomez, but also on the presence of his father Franck Gomez, who is the head coach of the Quebec team. 

 Team Gomez is the best of both worlds, she summarizes. I am really, really lucky. 

The son can benefit from the experience of the father. 

“ At the same age, Florence records the same performances as Émilie Fournel who participated in three Olympic Games [2008, 2012 and 2016]. My father trained Émilie and we can draw comparisons. » 

A profitable multi-sport experience 

As recently as two years ago, field hockey grass was Florence Hamel's favorite sport.

The 16-year-old kayaker was introduced to field hockey when the family moved to Oakville, a suburb of Toronto, in 2011, when she was just five years old. Florence didn't want to play soccer, and Liza wanted her daughter to play a team sport.

What was the young girl's joy when her family moved to England in 2019 for reasons  professional! 

“It’s big field hockey in England, says Florence. It is one of the main sports for girls. I like to win or lose as a team. In kayaking, I also find this facet in the team boats in K-2 and K-4. »


Due to of the pandemic, the family returned to Montreal in June 2020. Much more than the move, the young girl had to give up on field hockey, which is not practiced in the metropolis. She then joined the Lachine kayak club, a sport to which she now devotes all her energies and all her efforts.

“Even if there had been field hockey in Montreal, I think I would have kayaked,” she says. I grew up playing many sports [soccer, swimming, cross-country skiing, kayaking and field hockey]. I developed a great openness and my athletic abilities. »

For Liza Racine, who grew up kayaking and teaches physical education in a secondary school, it was essential that her two children discover multisport.

“Both of our children followed exactly what young people should do by playing several sports,” she explains. Until the age of 14 or 15, it is important to try out several sports. It is a foundation for life, no matter what you will do later. The achievements are transposed into your main sport when you specialize. »

Hamel's coach, Dominic Gomez sees several advantages in the sporting career of his protege. 

“The desire to go hard, to put in a lot and the intensity are aspects that come from field hockey, he explains. It often takes longer to develop this desire to win in girls who have only done kayaking. His cardiovascular system is also very developed. 

” I encourage my athletes to practice several sports, adds Dominic, whose father, Franck, is the head coach of the Quebec team. It's easy to teach her the technique because she's in control of her body.”