When Andrew Russell stepped back into a canoe after taking two years off to get a university degree and rest a shoulder injury, his goals were modest. He wanted to earn a spot on the national team; maybe a race at a world championship.
The Olympics? Those were just a dream.
“I thought I would take things one step at a time, but all of a sudden, I started having success really quickly,” the Dartmouth native recalled. “My goals changed really fast.”
Russell, who resurrected his paddling career in 2006, has seen his dream become reality after qualifying for the Beijing Olympics last weekend at a World Cup event in Germany.
The 25-year-old Russell and partner Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny of Trois-Rivieres, Que., beat the well-known Buday brothers, two-time Olympians Attila and Tamas Jr. from Mississauga, Ont., to earn the Canadian C-2 spot in Beijing.
“The other crews were unbelievably good, and to finish on top of guys that are so, so talented, it felt good,” Russell said. “It’s really kind of surreal right now and it’s still setting in.”
Russell teamed up with Beauchesne-Sevigny after finishing his political science degree at Queen’s. They had raced together at the 2001 junior world championship, but that was the extent of their relationship. As a duo, they were an instant hit.
“We’re a package deal … We really feed off each other and coming back we just hopped in a boat one day,” Russell said. “I consider him a close friend and it’s nice to share success with someone you enjoy being around.”
Russell won’t be the only Nova Scotian paddler going to the Olympics, as Waverley native Karen Furneaux booked her ticket to the third Games of her career on the weekend. Nova Scotia sent five paddlers to the Athens Games in 2004.
Russell returns to action at another World Cup event this weekend in Szeged, Hungary. After that, he will spend the rest of the summer training and getting ready for Beijing.
“We’re really excited about the proposition of being able to represent Canada,” he said. “We’re racing this weekend, and after this we’ll take a week to recuperate and go from there. It’s a huge relief and exciting to be done.”