“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.
The North Bay Canoe Club has had a strong history of producing talented and competitive athletes that have competed at the Pan-Am games, world championships and some have gone on to win Olympic medals.
Mihail Oghina is hoping to continue that tradition.
“I think that is a possible goal because our club has had a great history of getting people to the world stage and the Olympic stage and I think that is something we can achieve once again.”
Oghina is the club's new head coach. Originally from the Republic of Moldova, he arrived in November and brought with him an impressive resume as both an athlete and a coach.
“I was a junior national champion a few times and part of the national junior team and raced at the Worlds and the European Championships,” he says.
Competing at an elite level for over a decade gave Oghina the knowledge and experience necessary on the surface, to transition into a coaching role. He pursued that by first earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Culture and Sports in 2013, and followed that up with his Master's Degree in Physical Education and Sports Specialization from the State University of Physical Education and Sport, Republic of Moldova.
“As a coach, I started after I graduated and went straight to Mexico because my dad was coaching there and the women's team was looking for a new coach,” says Oghina.
“I was very familiar with the sport, but it was my first big step as a coach. I got to work with some of the top coaches in the world there with the Baja California State Team and when you have those people mentoring you, you will learn a lot in a very short time. Within the four years of coaching there, my athletes achieved remarkable results at several international competitions. Our athletes won the national championship, qualified for the junior worlds for the PanAm Games, and came in fifth there. At the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, one of our athletes got the bronze medal (Victoria Morales Cazarez and finished third in the Girls Head-to-Head Sprint C1) which was very exciting.”
Oghina says the sport had only been introduced in Mexico for about 10 years and so in a very short time they had achieved a lot of very good results there.
“But my contract had expired after four years,” says Oghina.
“I came to visit my sister who was living in Montreal. While I was there, a friend of mine who lived in Ottawa told me that the Rideau Canoe Club was looking for a coach and so I applied and they invited me to be on their coaching staff.”
Oghina says the Rideau Canoe Club is a powerful group.
“We won the last two national championships and we broke the record for points in a season. My athletes won the nationals and another athlete qualified for the Jr. Worlds in 2019 and ended up winning the silver medal and that was also very exciting.”
Now Oghina turns his attention to North Bay.
“I had been here before when they hosted the 2019 Regatta, and I really liked the area, it’s a beautiful place and I really liked the club. They were looking for a coach and I applied, I was accepted and I’m very happy to be in North Bay,” says Oghina.
“I had a very warm interview with the Commodore and the members. The club members have been very supportive and doing everything we can do to improve the club going forward.”
Oghina says right away they focused on what they could do to train out of the water, in the middle of a pandemic.
“We started in November and the team members are very focused and they are training hard. This is something new for the club as they have never had a full year-round coach and so we have been running a winter program. I’m getting to learn more about them, and they are getting to learn about me and it’s exciting, I’m looking forward to the season.”
Sports organizations everywhere are still waiting to see what exactly a season can look like in 2021 with the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down most aspects of daily life, but Oghina says that hasn’t stopped them from making preliminary plans.
“We’re working toward putting some programs together for this year and so we’re staying optimistic,” says Oghina.
“We applied to host the U12-U14 Regatta in August. It would be a great event for the whole city and especially our club if we can get this event. Usually, a lot of clubs from eastern Ontario will come to these events and so that’s the goal is to involve as many competitors as we can.”
Oghina adds, “We upgraded our website, so people are available to sign up online if they are thinking of joining the club. We are starting the spring programs in May hopefully, and in July we will start the kid's canoe summer program.”
He says if anyone has ever considered the sport, there are many reasons to come try it out this year.
“It's a beautiful sport, you’re outside, most of the time in warm weather in beautiful areas. It’s a sport where your whole body is working, all your muscles are working together. It’s a safe sport, there are very few injuries that happen, and overall it's fun and exciting and people generally just want to give it a try.”
Oghina has high hopes for the success that can be brought to this club.
“I really want more people to know about our club and I encourage people to check it out. I want to get as many youths involved as possible and start building a new generation of champions.”
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