Mon, November 18, 2013

Doug Csima nurses rowing dream

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency



Rowing on the Thames
 

LONDON - Whenever Doug Csima walks into the Beacon Hill Villa, a residential care facility in downtown Victoria, B.C., he receives a nice ovation from the residents.

However, the next time he drops by, he’s hoping the reception will be more enthusiastic than usual.

“Hopefully I’ll have some hardware to show off,” the Oakville, ON. native said.

Csima is a member of Canada’s powerful men’s rowing eights, a relatively young crew hoping to upset the field here at the London Olympics and bring home the gold medal.

For Csima, bringing home the gold will also mean bringing the gold back to his second home, Beacon Hill, where he worked as a nurse full-time in 2008, and part-time after that until just a few months before the London Olympics.

“They call me ‘The Rower,” said Csima. “I’m not sure a lot of them remember my name anymore.”

That may be so, but when he does return, he’s certain the aging residents will be happy to see him, medal or not, as he will to see them. Csima has a special bond with the place, and the residents.

“I love the people, they help you stay grounded,” the 6-3, 220 pounder rower said Friday afternoon, on the eve of Saturday’s opening Olympic heats at the Eton Dorney course outside of London. “When you’re an athlete, you tend to be a very selfish person. All you think about is yourself. You get absorbed in this world of high performance sport. Helping other people helped keep me grounded.”

Csima’s journey to the Olympics, and to his chosen profession, is certainly an unusual one.

He grew up a hockey goaltender and hoped to make the McMaster University team when he enrolled at 17, only to discover that the university no longer had a varsity squad. Needing a challenge, he signed up for rowing and just a few years later is competing at his first Olympics, though he was a member of Canada’s eights that won medals at the 2009 and 2011 world championships.

“I’d never touched a rowing machine or a boat before university,” Csima said.

As for the nursing part, well, his mother encouraged that course of study. And now, Csima is just your typical Olympic rowing male nurse . . . not that he ever gets teased about that.

“I’m a pretty big guy,” said Csima. “So nobody is going to make fun of me. At least not to my face.

“And, yes, it took a little bit of nerve to get over the whole ‘male nurse’ thing,” he added. “But I was up for the challenge. I thought, ‘How bad could it be?’”

Apparently not bad at all. Csima has fond memories of working at Beacon Hill, and will probably return there, even though he studying for his Masters of Science at the University of Victoria. And the guys on the team don’t seem to mind the fact that he knows his way around a stethoscope.

“I think people like the fact that there’s a nurse on the team,” he said. “If they have a fungal infection or something, and they don’t want to talk to the doctor, they always come to me.

“But if they showered a little more, they wouldn’t have to come to me as much,” he added, with a laugh.

You can bet that there won’t be any jocularity during Saturday’s heats. Csima and his mates were placed in an absolutely brutal heat, facing the defending world champion Germans, the Brits — defending world championship silver medallists — and the Netherlands. All four crews in that heat have won medals on the World Cup circuit this season.

“It is a tough draw, but I think the Germans are probably also thinking it’s a tough draw, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re a little nervous,” said Csima. “We’ll use it as an opportunity and take some positives out of it, try to get a feel of what the Germans have early on and adjust our plan and strategy. And it’s a chance to upset them early and push them into a bit of a panic mode.”

A loss in the heats wouldn’t be the end of the world. If the Canadians, the defending Olympic champions (though with only three returnees from that crew), don’t win Saturday’s race, they can always qualify to the final through the repechage. The ultimate goal, of course, is gold. After that, Csima plans to drop by and see his pals at Beacon Hill.

“I love hearing their stories, or just to sit down and chat and watch a Canucks game with them,” he said. “Not that I’m a Canucks fan. I’m a Leafs fan, of course.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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