Samantha Brisson enjoyed many facets of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
In August the Virden resident served as an umpire/major technical official in rowing at the prestigious multi-sport event. The rowing competition was held at Royal Canadian Henley regatta course in St. Catherines, Ont. What did she enjoy most about the event?
“The sense of community and spirit, energy is electric and different than any other regatta,” Brisson said. “The region produces a fantastic cider, and the up-close view of Niagara Falls was not bad either.”
The veteran umpire said the calibre of competition was high. Brisson said that the Canada Summer Games is “very much a gateway regatta to earning post-secondary scholarships and junior international racing opportunities.”
“Every province was represented, and the Prairies held their own, despite the disadvantage of a short racing season and being landlocked. B.C. and Ontario took home the majority of the medals,” she said while also noting that as an “umpire it is also a steppingstone to future races.”
Brisson has plenty of experience. She served as the chief umpire for the Western Canada Games in 2015 and 2019. Brisson has also attended numerous National Rowing and Canadian university championships. She said the main goals in her role are always safety and fairness.
“A sign of a great regatta is actually when no one knows we are there,” Brisson said. “At CSG, there was an umpire overseeing every aspect of the racing. I was part of a team of 19 individuals. As the boats travel backwards the biggest concern on the water is ensuring everyone stays on course and that they don’t run into each other. We often share the water with other entities (whether) it be animals (birds), other boaters, media, debris such as logs and weeds, so umpires also keep a watchful eye out for any of that. Umpires align, start, and finish the races. Each crew and racing shell is also inspected prior to going on the water. Just like any other sport there are weight categories and doping control, so umpires are often called to facilitate that.”
Brisson first became involved in rowing in her hometown of Calgary. Her mother suggested the sport as a way to keep her active.
“I quickly fell in love, found the friends and community I had been searching for,” Brisson said. “I coached summer camps, joined the rowing club board and gained the opportunity to travel.”
A back injury in university and life happening brought her racing career to an end. At the time, the number of umpires was dwindling and were of a narrow demographic.
“The President of the Alberta Rowing Association saw an opportunity for me and funded my training to become a license Rowing Canada umpire,” Brisson said. “I have been doing it for 15 years now and feel completely blessed to take part in a sport I love with the nearest rowing club being over 300 km away. I love the challenge umpiring brings me, the opportunities for outdoor adventures and the people I have met along the way. I want to be an inspiration for my daughter and other women in my life, following my passions allows me to do just that.”