Their homes are 6,000 kilometres apart and there’s a decade difference in age but when Para rowers Andrew Todd of Halifax and Kyle Fredrickson of Victoria unite, magic happens.
That was certainly the case in 2018. The pair sparkled on international waters, with gold medals in two PR3 M2 events this past May at a World Cup in Italy.
Then in September, they confirmed that showing was no fluke with gold at the world championships in Bulgaria.
All this despite the fact they only hooked up this past spring. National Para rowing coach John Wetzstein saw potential in Todd and Fredrickson as a pair.
‘’Our bodies are similar, we both have a right limb disability and we are the same height,’’ said Fredrickson, 19, who was born with bilateral clubfeet which has required five surgeries. ‘’With Andrew in stroke and myself in bow I had to change what I was doing to connect with his power.
“It wasn’t easy at first.’’
For Todd, 29, having a youthful partner like Fredrickson was a welcome boost of adrenaline.
‘’To have someone so much younger, seeing how excited he was, made me excited and really want to maximize things,’’ said Todd, a biotechnology graduate with an eye on a career in medicine.
In 2013, Todd was struck by a bus while cycling in London, Ont., and suffered several fractures to his right leg and pelvis. After more than 10 surgeries, he could not regain the same power in his right leg. At the time of the accident he was battling for a berth on Canada’s men’s lightweight fours rowing team.
Both Todd and Fredrickson started rowing in 2007 but at very different ages. Fredrickson in grade four and Todd in his first year at the University of Ottawa.
‘’Because we both have been rowing for so long, there was a steep curve of progression because of that experience,’’ said Todd.
There is a good news-bad news slant in this amazing story: the PR3 M2 event they won at worlds… is not a Paralympic Games event. That means the focus will now shift to the fours event leading into Tokyo 2020.
Fredrickson, Todd, Victoria Nolan, Bayleigh Hooper and coxswain Laura Court were fourth at the worlds with minimum training together under their belt. Todd and Nolan were part of Canada’s bronze medal winning fours team at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
“We were impressed with our fours result at worlds,” said Todd. “We went into those worlds with just a couple weeks training as a crew. We didn’t set a goal in terms of results, it was just a measuring stick.
“Now with the Games qualifying set for next year, there’s no doubt Kyle and I are going to focus on the fours. But the smaller boats are still part of our training so we are certainly keeping that together for the future.”
Being so far apart geographically can be a challenge in regards to training. They each follow individualized training programs and reunite at training camps and for specific blocks of training during the spring and summer months leading into major championships.
‘’We didn’t know where we stood entering this past season,’’ said Todd. ‘’We just kept asking more of ourselves and to never become complacent.’’
You can bet they’ll pass on that wisdom to the others in the fours crew.