I never had the privilege of meeting him, but for the number of times Malcolm has spoken about him I feel like I’ve meet Harry Parker many times.  He was an incredible coach, and a wonderful man.  It is always tragic when the life of someone so gifted is cut shorter than everyone would hope, but his wisdom and passion will exist forever in the hearts and minds of all those he taught, inspired and who’s lives he impacted.

Coaching (or teaching as Harry said in the video below) is one of those blessed professions where you have the ability to make a huge difference in other people’s lives.  And with the best teachers/coaches, more often than not, the greatest impact has very little to do with the subject matter.  My favourite teachers and coaches have helped me in every aspect of my life, become a better person as I picked up those skills/knowledge.  I have seen the impact that Harry has had on my husband, and I know the greatest legacy is to honour those teachings by one’s every day actions.  So Harry, thank you for the role you played in helping shape Malcolm into the incredible man, athlete and rower he is today.

Harry Parker: Why We Row video
Row2K Remembrance Article
Harvard Crimson Article
Harry and Abigail: Doubles Race at Head of the Charles 2012

We came to bump, bump, bump, bump

Torpids week has come and gone, and I’m already feeling its absence.  My first racing experience was a lot of fun, and helped show me that sport is sport …and while rowing and rhythmic gymnastics have their first letter in common, there are many more similarities than that!


Day 1:
Wednesday meant our first real exposure to bumps racing.  For the majority of our crew, who have only been rowing for a few months we knew there was going to be a lot of excitement and things to take in. The whole set up of a bumps race is overwhelming – cannons being shot off 5 minutes, 1 minutes and then at GO.  A crew you’re chasing and someone chasing you!  Our biggest challenge was to keep our head in the boat and stick to the technique we’d been working so hard to improve (after our slightly disastrous time trial where our coach wanted to disown us).  We were second in the line up and chasing a crew (Green Templeton) that was 15 seconds faster in rowing on (or Friday’s time trial).  As a result we ended up rowing over – which means racing the whole course and not bumping nor getting bumped.  Pretty good for our first go.

Day 2:
There was a new crew (Merton) in front of us as they had been bumped down from the division up. We were excited to continue our path of improvement and eager for our first bump… except the whole concept of getting so close to a boat to actually make contact or over take them proved to be a bit distracting.  As 7 seat and close to the stern of the boat I have no concept of what was going on behind… but it seemed like when we got close to the crew we were chasing we stopped rowing together (and some of us actually stopped rowing).  Thankfully we got it together and did end up getting them, and most importantly it gave us another learning experience!  NEVER STOP ROWING 😉

As the top boat in our division we became the sandwich boat which means you race as the bottom boat in the division up.  Using our first bump as an opportunity to get the kinks out we were eager to catch the crew in front of us which was Green Templeton.  We knew that they were bigger and faster off the line, but we also knew we were able to gain ground over the course and eager to hunt them down and “make them hurt”.  With a stronger start we were very close to catching them but they managed to hold off.  They ended up bumping the crew in front of them (Exeter) and in doing so set us up well to bump Exeter too!  In bumps racing the crew you bump must continue to row (while a crew that bumps stops rowing).  Another race – more learning and a day with two bumps… W2 was feeling pretty good!


Day 3:
With yesterday’s final race we had moved up into Division 4.  We were determined to stay here as it is a fixed division and means that Oriel W2 won’t have to qualify for Torpids next year!  We were chasing Green Templeton again and knew the job we had to do.  It was another hard push to try and take them.  Our Coxswain Emily kept asking for a hard 10, which was quickly followed by another hard 5 and another hard 10… and I kept wondering where they were and how much more we had to do to get them.  In the end it was another situation like Thursday – they were able to stay far enough away and catch the crew in front (this time LMH), and then we were able to bump LMH.

Day 4:
Our final day, and we were eager to make it our 4th bump in a row.  We were feeling confident that we had improved as each race went on and we were committed to giving that extra bit to close the gap.  We had one of our strongest starts and the boat was feeling good (except for the whole pushing so hard you want to die bit, but that’s a given right?!).  Then about half way through disaster struck… the oar lock on Seat 4 came open, and it was bent so when she tried to close it, it wouldn’t lock.  Now with only seven blades in the water we were not only trying to hunt down a strong crew in front of us but trying to stave off being caught by LMH who could see exactly what was happening… On the side people could hear their Coxswain asking for a push to catch us, but even down a rower we were maintaining the distance.

In bumps racing, there’s often a hard push at the beginning because you know if you give it then the race can end quickly.  Push for the bump and you may barely row half the course (or less! like our M2 crew did most days!).  BUT, pushing  hard early and not getting the bump means rowing the entire course when you’re dead.  Combine that with the confusion and frustration of an equipment malfunction meant a less than awesome last row.  It was definitely not how we wanted to finish.  It’s like having an incredible meal and then dessert is rotten fruit.

But honestly I don’t know if Torpids could have gone better for us.  Our coach took a crew of girls (6 of 8 who hadn’t rowed before), pushed them hard these last few months, and then magically in the span of a week turned them into a team.  We hadn’t rowed together before the time trial and somehow came together with a hungry spirit and determined attitude.  And this is just the beginning. Summer Eights. Oriel W2 is coming for you!

And this is why I love sport.  It’s fun yes, but it teaches you so much.
When I was a gymnast I was never about ‘beating someone else’… in gymnastics it’s tough to actually do that unless you mean literally taking my club and beating someone – and hey, I’m not about physical violence!  It was always about me being perfect. Me being the best version of me.  And I thought that was different in ‘racing sports’.  But my first racing experience showed me that even in a race, when you’re trying to be faster than someone,  you really do have to row your own race.  Especially in rowing when a crew may be behind you and you have NO CLUE where they are.  Especially in rowing when a crew may be gaining on you – but if you start flailing around trying to keep them at bay you’ll likely lose it faster than you think.

The other thing I learned is that sport is like life. And sometimes things happen in life – that you can’t predict, explain, prepare for.  And what do you do then? Learn. Grow. Get tougher. Get hungrier.  And learn some more.  No it’s not fair.  No it’s not necessarily happy or fun to have those things happen, but are they a valuable part of life – yes. Definitely.  Will they make you stronger. 100% (if you let them).

The final thing I learned during this regatta is that my husband is certifiably insane.  Part way through our first race I thought “oh geez Malcolm and his teammates have to do this for 18 minutes”.  And so hats off to you crazy boat race rowers.  I will never race on the tideway, but my experience on the Isis was one I’ll never forget.

I never imagined I’d be a rower, and I don’t even think I can call myself that.  But I am a proud teammate, eager training partner, motivational speaker and of course team mom!  And I never thought I’d say this but… when are we erging next?!!



“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The last two years of my life have been about rowing. It is something that we’ve lived, breathed, ate & slept. Of course up until four months ago I hadn’t sat in a boat or picked up an oar.

My life was about helping my husband, Malcolm Howard in his quest for a second Olympic medal.  After he and his teammates achieved that goal in London this summer, we moved to Oxford in order for him to pursue his Masters.  With little to do initially, I jokingly said to the OUWBC President who was coaching some of the Oriel Novice Women “Should I learn to row?”.  The next day I had a tank session.  And that’s how my rowing career began.

I took to the water after two tank sessions, likely under some false preconceived ideas of what it would be like.  After watching Olympic crews I knew I wasn’t going to be good, but I  didn’t think the suck would be so bad.  I came off the water that day in tears and has VERY reluctant to go back.

The next outing was an inter-college mini regatta. My crew won. Things were looking up.  After a long pause for my return-to-Canada-Visa-trip and the Holidays it was back to training.  This was where things actually got fun.

I began to like erg-ing. Anyone who has done Crossfit with me knows my disdain for the erg.  I think it was invented as a torture device.  BUT, little did I know I would enjoy 25 minutes pieces, and be thrilled to be back in the gym doing circuits and pushing hard to build strength and fitness.

The weather in England has not been very rowing friendly this year.  Flooding meant many red flags and ‘closures’ of the Isis.  While this did mean some fun trips to Wallingford (including one where Malcolm and the OUBC squad were training as well… talk about trying to keep your head in the boat while your husband yells “ERIKA” as you row by!), it also meant that the ‘newbies’ didn’t get out on the water as much as we’d hoped.

Then the 6th week of term arrived. I had been away in Canada for a wedding and returned to Oxford just in time for Rowing On.  This is when boats in the lower categories have to race a time trial in order to qualify and rank themselves for Torpids.  I’m happy I remembered how to row, having not been in a boat for a few weeks, and even happier to say we qualified!

Now the task will be getting the boat to move quickly, while we keep our focus amidst the craziness around us.  I’m not 100% sure what the experience will be like, but BUMPS racing is insane. Boats are lined up along the river according to ranking, and the objective is to catch and overtake or bump the crew in front of you.  I feel like it’s rowing+american gladiators… and I’m oh-so looking forward to it!

Hopefully I will have many stories to share by the end of the week!
Keep your fingers crossed for us and send some Oriel love this way 🙂

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
~ Confucious

P.S The boat race is only 33 days away.  Check out theboatrace.org for information or whichblueareyou.com to vote for Oxford and the Dark Blue!!!!

P.P.S Next year stay tuned for when Malcolm takes up either dancing or rhythmic gymnastics (we’ll be holding a vote for you to decide which!!!!)

Let the hangover begin!!!

In as many ways as the Olympics start with a bang, they also finish equally abruptly.  It is quite remarkable how something you plan and prepare for, for years is suddenly upon you… and then it’s all over in what feels like the blink of an eye.  Yesterday, as I had some time to myself I began to realize the overwhelming surge of emotions that I had obviously suppressed (for the most part).  The Olympics is inevitably one of the greatest emotional roller coasters of all time. Someone you know (or at least feel an affinity for) is experiencing their greatest triumph or their greatest defeat.  If someone you love/care about/know is competing, you want, so very strongly, for them to perform well and yet have no capacity to do anything other than love, wish, pray, and cheer. (And we all know I do a lot of all of these – especially the latter. Which is why this picture was so meaningful to me!)

A billboard in London that captures my sentiments exactly!

But enough about that. What’s happened has happened. It is impossible to stay up all of the time, and it was a remarkable few weeks. Besides as Dr. Seuss once wrote: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

And smile I did. Of course my husband winning a silver had a lot to do with it.  To see their ability to overcome themselves, unite, refocus and then do what they are capable of was remarkable. (If you just get out of your own way… it’s amazing what will come to you. -Laird Hamilton.)  It was also a lot of fun catching other events, taking in the atmosphere and pride of Great Britain and cheering on incredibly talented athletes.

But, one of the most fun parts was doing analysis for CTV. If you know me (and likely for most of you reading this, you know me well), you know that it is a role I would treasure. It is in fact a role I have been rehearsing for most of my life.  You see, when I was a young girl, not only would I practice gymnastics in my back yard, but after my routine I would interview myself. Destiny? Fate? Perhaps…

Jumping into a position you’ve never done while the entire nation is watching is, to put it mildly, slightly nerve wracking. I kept reminding myself that the majority of people watching were going to be the people who love me most, and like my mother, well you’re stuck with me and I’m pretty sure you’d still love me regardless of the outcome.  BUT, I have to say I was surprised, pleased and overwhelmed with the outpouring of positive comments and support. Thank you one and all for your kind messages!  My artistic gymnastics counterpart Kyle Shewfelt, warned me not to look at twitter or facebook during the broadcast – and with much hesitation I went against his advice. Thankfully at this point no one has highlighted those moments where I stuck my foot in my mouth, or began to go down one path and half way down realized “ahhh I don’t want to be here!” so I aborted mission.  If you do have constructive criticism I would eventually like to hear it (lovingly wrapped in kindness of course), because hopefully this will not be my last broadcasting opportunity.

On set with Rod Black ready to tape the Review/Preview

I think it was so much fun because I was working with one of the best – Rod Black. He along with the production team were so helpful and nurturing, guiding me the whole way along.  I was lucky to be in London so that I had a chance to check out the venue since initially CTV wanted me to ‘call it’ from Toronto.  In fact, perhaps you were not aware but the whole time Rod and I were in a little black booth in the International Broadcast Centre!!!

Our little black booth

It’s too bad we didn’t get to experience it live, but I’m not complaining. The accreditation pass I received is too good to be true – and if I ever make it to another Olympic Games I don’t know how I’d live without one. There were even a few times where I could get somewhere and Malcolm couldn’t – a shocking first, and second, and…. (hehehe)


As I lived and breathed these last few weeks in my various capacities I often wondered what makes the Olympics so special.  It is so powerful to be a part of the World coming together to celebrate people’s dreams, their excellence through work & passion, and to unite in harmony.  We revel in the stories regardless of sport, nation, or gender. But there is magic beyond this.  Perhaps it is because unlike the NHL with it’s 82 games per season, or the MLB with 162 (!!!), these competitors have one shot. Everything must come together in this particular moment in time. And what a challenge that is. For every athlete that wins there are so many more that are fighting for that podium. For every athlete that qualifies and competes there are thousands who have been so close. Yes, Olympians are incredible… but can’t it really be about the journey and not the destination (even in the aftermath of London 2012)?!

The lack of over saturation of amateur sport and the Olympics helps to maintain its allure and importance.  Yet many of these athletes (after taking a brief pause) will be back training for Rio very soon.  One person who always remembered – in the good times, the bad, and before they were stars was Randy Starkman.  He was a journalist, but more importantly a friend and advocate of amateur athletes, always caring more about the person than the story.  When he died suddenly in April of this year, the sporting world mourned. It was an honour to attend a breakfast remembering Randy and the legacy he left behind.

One of the catch phrases of these Olympics was “Inspiring a Generation”.  I know I was personally moved and motivated by the performances I saw, by the people who made the  Games happen (the volunteers were outstanding), by the triumphs and those who rose out of the ashes, and by the friendships gained along the way.  I hope you have been inspired as much I have – and I hope that we can all continue to give life to the Olympic ideals until the next torch is lit in Rio.

PS. I say this like the Para-Olympic Games aren’t just a few weeks away! PHEW, we couldn’t just end it right there… please be sure to tune in. If you thought you were already inspired, you haven’t seen anything yet!!!!

Taking in the excitement of Olympic Park


Silver’s SO SWEET!

WOW. All I can say is what an incredible journey and triumph this has been!

This is short & sweet (but still not as sweet as that silver baby)… I don’t have much time as I have to head to the celebrations! BUT, I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to all of our dear friends and family for their continuous love and support.  You have all had a wonderful impact and influence, and it truly means so much!

I hope you will understand my inability to respond to each one of your facebook comments/messages just yet. BUT, we definitely feel the love and truly truly are so grateful for your kind words!

I know this is the sign of things to come for the Rowers and Team Canada… GIVE YOUR EVERYTHING!!! (And the boys definitely did!)

Much love & big cheers all around xoxo
~ EH!!!!!!

One breath, one stroke at a time

The Olympics are a ride. An emotional and physical roller coaster. But we wouldn’t have it any other way would we?

I’m very excited to watch my anchor, my rock, my husband Malcolm and the CDN Men’s 8+ carpe diem tomorrow. His mantra: One breath, one stroke at a time. It’s going to happen. I feel it with every cell in my body, and every fibre of my being.  The Heavyweights are definitely going to “GIVE YOUR EVERYTHING”!

This afternoon I watched TV, and took in all of the other sports. I know this is kind of a silly statement, but THE OLYMPICS ARE AWESOME. To see a young girl clean and jerk 131 kg, to watch the Canadian Women’s gymnastics team qualify for the team finals for the first time EVER, to see the swimmers, the divers, the badminton, table tennis, the list goes on and on….  It’s incredible.

I apologise for not writing sooner – I was finessing my internet/phone situation.  I hope to be updating more.

Highlights so far:
– listening to the Four Tenors sing O’Canada and Hallelujah
– using my media pass to get in… pretty much everywhere #score 😉
– cheering my heart out for the incredible rowing team (One stroke, one breath!)
– watching the Women’s gymnastics team make history (ok it was on tv but still…)
– walking every where
and I know this is just the beginning.

Finally, this is perhaps redundant but I love my husband. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, being so close to someone and not being able to ‘BE’ with them must make it grow even more!  Well if love can be the fuel, I know that man will have a full tank!

From Malcolm and myself thank you one and all for your support. It truly does mean so much!!! And now to bed, we have a big day tomorrow 😉

Your glimpse into the Games

Hello friends & family 🙂

I’ve been asked quite a lot to list when the ‘key events’ for the Howards will be on the ‘teley’.  I’m not sure how accurate this information is, as it’s just what they have written on the website, but it will likely give you a place to start!

The TV Schedule is below. You can always check World Rowing for more information. They might have the live feed as well… I also believe that they will be streaming live from CTV!

Heats: Saturday July 28th
CTV: 4am
OLN: 6am

Reps (if necessary): Monday July 30th
CTV: 4am

Finals: Wednesday August 1st
CTV: 5:40am

Rhythmic Gymnastics:

Qualifiers Day 1: Thursday August 9th
CTV: 7am
TSN: 7:45am

Qualifiers Day 2: Friday August 10th
Sportsnet: 11:30am

Individual Finals: Saturday August 11th
TSN: 8:30 am

Group Finals: Sunday August 12th
Sportsnet: 12:30pm

And of course you can always check the blog, as I will be doing my best to keep you in the loop! If you have questions, comments, or requests (no guarantees though) please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Feel free to comment or email me: erika@erikahoward.ca


Looking forward …looking back

Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months, and years they spent preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely a demonstration of their champion character. ~ T. Allan Armstrong

It is a very natural occurrence that at important events in our lives, we often feel retrospective.  As I think of, dream about, and have mini-“EB” (aka emotional basket-case, or as I like to call it Emashional bosket-case) moments I cannot help but remember the road that brought me to this point.  I’m talking about it like this journey has really been mine – when in reality, I have been a happy helper (tag along) as Malcolm climbs this next mountain.  But, wow the view from the top!  It’s hard not to imagine what’s on the other side… and I frequently have to stop myself from thinking of all of the new adventures that await us Post-O. I sometimes picture what my husband will be like when he’s not the zombie version of himself due to constant all out training. How will I be able to adapt to making normal size meals? How will he adapt to having to clean the bathroom on occasion?

I think I must be pretty good at living in the present moment because I feel like the Games have snuck up on me.  I really cannot believe they are almost here.  And the thing is living in that present moment is going to be the key – for all of us.

To drink in this incredible experience. To not to fret about what is coming, but focus only on the here and now.  To not to try to control or manipulate things but stay open to what opportunities come about.  And first and foremost to stay grounded in the fact that what we are is what we are. For the athletes everything that brought them to this point. Each step they took to climb this mountain has carved them into the person they are. Who knows what will happen in London. Big challenges create big moments.  And to not let the past define us, nor determine our future.  There will be many who will rise even higher… but the thing I always think about is as incredible as those moments are, as brilliant as those accomplishments, they don’t actually change someone.  (well we hope not).

My wonderful husband pre-O will be the same post-O, though perhaps a little more chipper Thursday through Saturday 😉  When I was at the Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs one year I found some motivational papers… written is one of my favourite all time quotes:

A true champion is a champion in life, not just in sport.

He is my champion. My anchor.
CTV produced a little profile on him…

AND, then to end on a bit of lighter note, here’s something to make you laugh. One of my favourite videos is this one of a young girl and her daily affirmations.  Well I made my own version for the rowers.  Hope you enjoy!

The Road to London…

Well, it’s almost that time again.
The magical period that rolls around every four (well, technically two) years that captivates almost everyone on the planet.

The Olympic Games…
Since I was a little girl I have been in love with the Olympics.  Initially it was all about wanting to be in them, and dedicating my life to achieving that goal.  Now it is about being caught up in the magic.

The Olympics have a way of distilling life into this incredible little package.  We get to live others dreams first hand; we catch glimpses into their sweat-filled journey to this particular moment in time [that is for the fortunate ones who are actually able to get to this moment – but more on that later], we’re able to imagine the magnificent dedication it takes to get to this level, and take on their goals, their triumphs, and also their defeats as if they were our own.  Sport has this incredible power of enabling fans to take the athletes’ accomplishments personally.  And I honestly mean this in the best way possible!  We rally, we cheer, we cry, we jump and scream and wear the most ridiculous paraphernalia with the belief that our faith can and will affect the outcome.  The swelling of National Pride during the Games is to me, one of the most inspiring and powerful phenomenon.  Regardless of the sport, the gender, the religion, or race – all we want is the best for that athlete… that person.  I love sport so much, because it is how I aim to live my life.

Dream big. Dedicate yourself. Believe. Find support in like-minded people, and support them along the path. Learn. Grow. Fail. Triumph. Share your passion. Repeat! (as often as necessary and as often as possible)

The last week I began to realize that the Olympics are taking over my life. (Oh what a wonderful predicament.)  This is of course with very good explanation.  My incredible husband is, himself, preparing for the Games.  He and his teammates (The Canadian Rowing Men’s 8+) will soon leave for the preparation camp in Europe and then head to England.  Ready, eager, and able to defend their 2008 Gold Medal.

I have much work to do as well.
After years of dreaming, working, and fighting I am finally going to the Olympics.  “Are you competing?” you may ask…  No.  Perhaps it is not the way I initially dreamed, but perhaps this is even sweeter.  You see, since I met and married Malcolm I realized that this role – of being the best supporter is in fact my destiny.

It was actually when Malcolm was competing in the single that I came to this realization.  At that time I felt like I could be of greater assistance (to make up for the crew he didn’t have next to him).  When he moved back into the Eight I think I took it harder than he did.  And then I realized that this is his destiny too.  To help guide his teammates the way he had been mentored in Beijing.

The Howards after the 2011 World Championships in Bled

We always have a role to play.  Sometimes our ego tries to dictate what that role should look like, but if we can be open – we might have the most to give and to gain in where we are in that exact moment.

So I now realize that all of the little things… understanding what he needs before he does, bed at 9pm and up at 6am, cooking enough food for a small army, helping him stretch, doing laundry etc. (oh all the glamorous things you can imagine)  …that is my contribution.  It’s not always easy, especially for someone who is used to centre stage. But knowing that I could have some positive contribution towards his dreams is more gratifying than accomplishing my own.

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded. – Maya Angelou 

Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many people you have brought with you. – Wil Rose

Actually I will have another role to play in London as well.  Through chance or fate or perhaps a bit of both I will be CTV’s analyst for Rhythmic Gymnastics.  So stayed tuned.  Not only will you see me as the Craziest Canuck cheering our Rowers as they go after their dreams, but I will be sharing my insights and passions about the sport that almost took me to Atlanta and Athens… but has brought me to London instead!

The 11 year old version of me 🙂