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Chris Jarvis, Time to the Olympics

Chris Jarvis, age 24, is from Grimsby, Ontario, Canada and has had type 1 diabetes since age 14. Some of his major rowing accomplishments are: Athens Olympic Games 2004 (defeated 7 out of9 countries before being denied entry to the finals), 2 World Cup gold medals (Canada's Men's Eight 2004, Silver Medalist - Under 23 World Championships (men's eight 2002), 2 time Canadian high school Gold Medalist (Senior 2- and 4+, 1999). Chris was a DESA LifeScan Award winner in 2004. Currently he is completing his engineering studies at Northeastern University in Boston while training for Beijing Olympics, near the banks of the Charles River.

For those who live in a region where rowing isn't available, and for others who have not paddled their way into one of our circles or clusters, I will try to use as little technical lingo as possible. I understand that rowing, for those of us in North America, is a sub-culture. When I first started out I didn't realize rowing was a competitive sport. A coach at my high school tried to recruit me after football season one year and I refused because I had never se en it on television and never played it with my friends out on the street, like road hockey or football. It sounded different, and of course, as a young boy in high school, that was the last thing I wanted to be.

As fate and the burning desire to be a good football player had it, I landed an opportunity to train in the same gym as the 'rowers'. I needed the extra training during my first season on the football team. I had been on the field for just one play. Standing 6'1" and weighing in somewhere just over a hundred pounds at the start of the season, it was no wonder why. Perhaps being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a year earlier slowed my muscular growth, or God just in tended me to be scrawny. I don't know. So, I was in the training room an awful lot after school, trying to become less of the “ gangly boy" that I was referred to as, in soccer that summer. I became fascinated seeing the diversity of the training for rowing. It included strength and power as did football, but also had more of a variety of cardio vascular skills and a different intent on the training. They were training to see if their competition could keep up rather than the football approach, which was to see if the opponents would be able to get up, after we hit them!

I do love football and worked hard to become a competitive player, earning a designated captain's position in my senior year. But I did decide to row after missing it the first year and I have missed but one season in over 8 years. That is one of the things I love about rowing, it goes all year round. Why? Because fitness is important all year round! The sport has helped me to realize the importance of my health and motivate me to keep a focus on my blood sugars, food intake and insulin regime. I changed from the boy who could not remember to bring his insulin and test kit, to a disciplined athlete who knows and respects the malfunctions of his body.

Management of my Diabetes

Through this sport I have had many opportunities to talk with diabetics all across the world, all with unique stories. The most powerful message I have to offer is the importance of taking the disease on as your own research project. Diabetes may be the most nagging aspect of your life but believe me, it will only nag more as you ignore it. At first, taking the time to test and analyze my BG's was motivated by the need to be healthy to stay competitive. It became a project that motivated itself! Life feels better when you can trust your body to work properly and not worry about letting others down. That was always a dream of mine, that I could be a guy who others would look to for stability and they could always count on me. I found that there were tools out there to help, not just log books but test kits that store and organize the information for you. I use a One Touch Ultra Smart meter and found it so motivating while training, I tested 10 X a day and bumped it up to 20X while at the Olympics! Testing that often had certain bonus features. For example, I did not always have to prick my fingers; a little squeeze would open the skin and give enough blood for a test. Testing so often was a confidence booster because I could understand the relationship between insulin doses and food. Now I can adjust my pump to administer different rations for insulin/carb and also change basal rates when necessary. I know other diabetics who would just as soon take a shot and forget about it, I was once one of them. Sometimes I stand back to take a glimpse at the big picture to put things into perspective. With excellent diabetes management, my team mates can count on me, I can trust my body to perform at its best and the future will be representative of how I treat my health now.

Team Dynamics

There are two main reasons I love rowing. The first, of course, is the intense dedication to train required in competitive sport. The type of push that you get from your team mates is very unique from other sports. There really is no "I" in this team sport. In football you acquire stats for individuals during the game, but at the end of a rowing race every team mate is looked at with equal judgment from the competition. It makes team skills so crucial, being able to motivate your mates and being motivated by them. This has the potential to build a dynamic that yields a powerful weapon. For nine guys that have trained together 3 times a day, 6 days a week, for perhaps 4 years, the resulting trust can commit the team to break through mental and physical barriers which would be unprecedented before that training. I experienced a taste of that success during my first season of rowing and wanted to take it further. Now, eight years later, I have experienced what it is like to challenge the rest of the world and win a world cup gold medal and race for my country at the Olympic Games! The experience was special and unique because of the inherent challenge. Despite the outcome from the politics, being held out from the trials, the challenge was confronted. There are always outside factors in life and sometimes they seem to pop up at the wrong time, but here I had done the training. I had been a member of Team Canada with the undisputable ability to win gold. The dream still lives and I could not be happier to have the desire driving me, pushing me to become better prepared.

The second reason I love rowing is the almost spiritual and meditative feeling of being on the water. Like biking with the wind in your hair, rowing has a feel to it that, when done right, can overcome any distractions. Even in the worst of weather, when it is freezing cold and snowing, it is possible to enjoy being out on the water. Somehow a connection between the extreme exertions of the body combined with the hum of the boat produces a feeling that cuts deep into the soul and eradicates any distractions. Even when that elusive connection happens in a race, it can bring the thunderous cheers of the crowd to a low murmur, without taking away the effect and allowing the focus and rhythm to speed ahead.

1 feel blessed to have achieved and experienced the many aspects ai nuances of rowing, so richly, my life. Seems so long ago the first turned my nose up at t sport. Now it has changed my l and helped me achieve success an athlete, a diabetic and a person always reaching for the best possibilities in life.
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