By: Keegan Matheson
Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium
Sept. 17, 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - When Jackie Gay and John McRoberts decided to pair together in Canada’s SKUD18 keelboat, it was a unique trial run.
“On paper, the way that the boat has been figured, the classification system, and what it takes to do a campaign, we checked all the boxes,” McRoberts said. “There was one box that was a little different, and that was the marriage box.”
For Gay and McRoberts, who married in 2010, their silver medal finish in SKUD18 two-person sailing on Saturday was made even sweeter by the distance they’ve come together both on and off the water.
At first the couple was reluctant to sail together competitively, wondering what the added hours would do to their relationship.
“We can at least try, and if it doesn’t work, we can stop,” said McRoberts after the final of eleven races in the regatta. “It’s the willingness to try, I learned that a long time ago through my injury, you just never know. Ultimately it worked great. We knew that if it worked, it was going to work well. Today we proved that.”
The two agreed that “flicking the switch” can be difficult, moving from husband and wife on the dock to a sailing team in the boat. Gay said that this change can be harder for her than her husband, with McRoberts adding that an openness to help is a key facet of their shared spot on the podium.
“We didn’t have a great last year and we started to see a marriage counsellor,” McRoberts said. “I’m very open to support. I learned a long time ago that you can’t do this on your own.”
The Canadians’ third-place finish in Saturday’s race positioned them just ahead of Great Britain for the silver and helped them to rebound from a sixth-place finish in Friday’s final run. Their timing was perfect, too, as Gay and McRoberts edged out the Brits by just four seconds to stay ahead at the finish.
Even in moments of adversity, though, and as pressure mounted throughout the week, Gay was enjoying her first Paralympics fully and deeply.
“I think back to yesterday, the second race we didn’t have a very good race for us, probably our worst of the week. Still, I was just happy to be out there on the water,” she said. “There was still a moment, there was still a bit of me that was like ‘This is just heaven’”.