Lake Echo paddler lands spot on team at 2016 Rio Olympics

Genevieve Orton, 32, qualified on Friday after finishing 1.62 of a second ahead of Michelle Russell and Madeline Schmidt.

Genevieve Orton, 32, joins Mark de Jonge as the 2nd Nova Scotia paddler to make Canada's team

Canadian kayakers Genevieve Orton (right) of Lake Echo, N.S. and KC Fraser of Toronto (left) qualified for the Rio Olympics on Friday. (Pascale Toupin)

Genevieve Orton, a 32-year-old paddler from Lake Echo, N.S., is going to the Summer Olympics in Rio. Orton, and her paddling partner, KC Fraser of Toronto, secured their spots on the team after a close K2 500-metre race-off in Montreal on Friday.

"I knew that was what was on the line for sure, but it didn't really click in it had happened and I was like 'we won!' and then I was like 'oh my God, we're going to the Olympics," said Orton. "I'm currently Expedia-ing trips to Brazil for my family."

Qualifying for the Olympics has been a dream for Orton. She tried out for Canada's Olympic team in 2008 and 2012. When she goes to Rio, she will compete in the K2 500 metre and the K4 500 metre races.

Late start to paddling

Orton has been paddling since her mid-teens. She began to take kayaking more seriously after she quit gymnastics at age 16. 

"I didn't see a lot of success for a long time, but I always knew I would and could. I stuck at it for what seems like an extremely long time now and eventually it came together and it came out of a lot of failures along the way but here we are now," said Orton.

Orton said it took her seven years of competitive paddling before she made her first Canadian team. She made the national team two years after that and has been on the team ever since, although she took some time off after having a child.

Orton and Fraser finished 1.62 seconds ahead of Michelle Russell and Madeline Schmidt in the K2 500-metre race-off in Montreal to take the win. (Pascale Toupin)

'Top of the heap'

Back home in Lake Echo, her canoe club is celebrating the news.

"It's the top of the heap. It would be comparable to a political science student becoming prime minister or a hockey player making the NHL. It's a big deal, especially for a small community like Lake Echo," said Corey Firth, head coach at the Orenda Canoe Club.

Firth said Orton is an excellent example of what perseverance can achieve.

"I can tell you a thousand examples about why she had reasons to quit and nobody would have thought less of her but she kept going and going and finally it paid off," said Firth.

5th Olympic paddler from Lake Echo club

The Orenda Canoe Club has a sign that says 'home to four Olympians' that acknowledges Stephen Giles, Peter Giles, Glen Girard and Leslie-Anne Young. Firth said the sign will be changed soon for Orton and that the community is planning a celebration event.

Firth said Orton is one of the best things to have ever happened to the canoe club and to his coaching career.

"[Orton] texted me yesterday and gave me a sigh of relief," he said.

"I texted back to her, "You know I've been answering texts for the last hour about how great you are?' and I said to her 'I thought you were pretty great before the race.'

"She is a great person."

Orton is the second Nova Scotia paddler heading to Rio. Mark de Jonge from Halifax is also on Canada's team.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.