Neither Meghan nor her younger sister Lauryn Cheung originally meant to become competitive paddlers.
The duo are among four Fort Langley Canoe Club paddlers named to Team B.C. this winter. But both played a number of sports before finding themselves on the water.
“I had a bit of an unconventional way of starting,” said Meghan.
The B.C. Summer Games were being held in Langley, and Meghan, then 13, was recruited because the local team needed an extra girl.
She had a month to prepare for her first competition.
A few years later, Meghan roped in her sister when she needed a partner. Lauryn wasn’t reluctant.
“I was super pumped to try a new water sport,” Lauryn said.
Both sisters were among four Langley residents named to the Canoe Kayak BC provincial team for 2017, along with fellow Fort Langley Canoe Club members Zaffia Laplante and Elliot Hoyt.
They said that while they are competitive, one of the best aspects of the sport is that their fellow paddlers make a very supportive and welcoming community.
“It’s just like hanging out at the beach for the entire summer with your friends,” said Meghan.
Lauryn and Meghan both said that although rowers are working hard on the water, it can be a very calming place.
“We have such an amazing view of the mountains,” Lauryn said of early-morning practices on Bedford Channel.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean training has stopped for the duo.
“We’re running, we’re in the weight room, we’re swimming,” said Meghan.
Emily Raymond is the coach for sprint paddlers with the Fort Langley Canoe Club.
“It opens them up to a bigger base for resources and training,” she said of being named to a provincial team.
Getting on the provincial team and winning competitions is a springboard to the national team.
Raymond is excited about the potential for building strong paddling clubs in Langley. She’s originally from Ottawa, where paddling is popular, but not exactly a year round sport.
“In Ottawa, we can only paddle six months of the year, if that,” said Raymond.
Now the local club is focused on training for the spring regattas, and hopefully for the big national events.
Both sisters competed and medalled there in 2016.
Both sisters, and other team members, had a good year in 2016.
Lauryn and Raymond took a silver in the K2 1000 metres, and Raymond and Laplante took bronze in a C2 200 metre event.
Raymond, Laplante, and the Cheung sisters won silver in K4 500 metre.
Most canoe and kayak events involve either one-, two-, or four-person sprinting over 200 to 1,000 metres.
But the Canada Games coming up this summer will feature a different style of event – one- and two-person races over six kilometres.
The race begins with a huge mass start with about 40 people taking part.
“Your have to be a warrior there,” said Meghan.
Training for the highly competitive events has to fit in around the sisters’ studies – Meghan at university and Lauryn in Grade 12 at R.E. Mountain Secondary.
But they worked with Raymond to come up with creative training regimes that fit in with their studies.
Lauryn said the proximity of the river helps.
“It’s awesome being so close,” Lauryn said. The Canoe Club’s dock is 15 minutes from her home or 10 minutes from her high school.
Raymond said that Lauryn has made huge strides in training this year, and both sisters will have the opportunity to be competitive in the coming season.
They will likely have new local teammates soon. “It seems like our team’s just growing,” said Raymond.