Sports

Commitment earns Rogers place among elite

By Don Fennell

Published 11:17 PDT, Fri July 23, 2021

Last Updated: 12:45 PDT, Mon August 9, 2021

Credit Shari Rogers for her daughter’s perpetual drive

Camryn Rogers has never had to look far for inspiration.

“My mom (Shari) is the strongest person I’ve ever known. She is the person I look up to, who keeps me grounded, who loves me unconditionally and would go to the ends of the earth to support me,” says Camryn in advance of her Olympic debut in the women’s hammer throw at this summer’s Games in Tokyo.

The pair share an indelible bond that is as much a lifelong friendship as a mother and daughter relationship.

Being a single parent, Shari willingly made countless sacrifices to give Camryn the best life she could. And through the journey they have shared a love of music and deep discussions.

Similar to the 1994 animated film classic The Lion King, in which Mufasa prepares his son Simba to be his successor as King of the Pride Lands, Shari carefully nurture d her daughter to appreciate the little things in the circle of life.

“She showed me the importance of building strong relationships with good people and how to be resourceful,” Camryn says. “And as I’ve developed more in hammer, she’s continued to express to me why having a strong support system is so crucial.”

Even as a young child, Camryn displayed a perpetual drive—and a sense of responsibility—beyond her years. It was apparent on her first day of track and field (Jan. 5, 2012), when she arrived 15 minutes early at Minoru Park for the Richmond Kajaks’ scheduled practice. That last-minute decision to go led to her meeting Richard Collier (the late Kajaks’ legendary throws coach), and was the beginning of her blossoming athletics career.

“My mom, being a hairdresser, had a number of clients and friends who were part of Kajaks,” she recalls. “They had mentioned to my mom that I should come out and just try out a few events and meet the coaches when I was younger, but at the time it was too difficult for my mom to organize her work schedule to take me.”

Immensely proud of her daughter—as much for her thoughtful and caring nature as for her success in athletics—Shari has always encouraged Camryn to reach for the sky.

“When Camryn was a young girl I tried to keep her busy and introduce her to a variety of activities,” Shari explains. “She sampled several through the Richmond community centers, as well as completing all of her swimming lessons. Funny enough, when Camryn was in pre-school and then elementary school, you would’ve sworn that she might have been a gymnast. She loved to go to the park and would spend hours playing, especially swinging on the monkey bars. The strength that she showed in her upper body at that age was quite amazing.”

Years later that physical strength, couple with an equally impressive determination, has enabled Camryn to quickly take her place among  the world’s best hammer throwers. An intrinsic mental focus enables her to perform her best when the pressure is at its greatest.

Perhaps a future environmental lawyer—once she’s tired of her blossoming throws career--she’s as easygoing outside of the throws circle as she is focused in it. Again, that’s a reflection of her upbringing.

“The guidance, friendship, skills, inclusion, and mentorship that she was shown by all members of the club, but specifically by Richard, are invaluable,” Shari says. “They have helped shape her into who she is today. I was always close behind watching and being involved in everything, yet allowing her to have space and learn from her mistakes.”

A member of the academic honour roll in high school at R.A. McMath in Steveston, it was no surprise Camryn picked up where she left off when she accepted a scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley in 2018. Under the tutelage of coach Mo Saatara (who says his first impression was: “she can throw!”), Rogers recently set the NCAA collegiate record with a throw of 75.52 metres June 10 in Eugene, Oregon.
The mark is top four in the world this year.

Yet Saatara believes the best is yet to come.

“Camryn is a fierce competitor, and has an enormous amount of untapped potential,” says Saatara, in his eighth year as throws coach at Cal. “She’s been able to take advantage of her opportunities and overcome obstacles that would have derailed others. She has also become a student of the sport. I believe she will be able to achieve the highest standards of hammer throwing before all is said and done.”

“Ever since coming to Berkeley I have been welcomed into a whole new community and support system made up of so many incredible individuals,” Camryn says. “My teammates, the Cal Athletics department, and so many other wonderful people have helped me on my journey to becoming an Olympian. But it is because of my coach that I am here. Over these last four years he has been there for every throw, every lifting session, every moment of pre-competition jitters, the highs, and lows, and everything in between. With Mo, I have been able to grow in ways I never thought I could both in and outside of the hammer circle. It’s such an honour to be his athlete, and I could not be more thankful to have him beside me in Tokyo.”

Excited to be going to the Olympics, Camryn has fond memories of watching Canadian throwers Sultana Frizell and Heather Steacy compete at the London Games in 2012 and thinking “I want to be just like them.”

“I have always been surrounded by such supportive family and friends who have helped me achieve this goal. I want to go and make them proud,” she says.

“I think that being able to have these Games, considering the circumstances, is quite special. So much work, tens of thousands of hours, have gone into making this Olympics as amazing and as safe as it can be. As an athlete, it is a privilege to be able to represent my country on the biggest stage in track and field. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of our national team and compete with Canada written across my chest.”

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