Talking Olympic rowing with Silken Laumann, @BizLondon #LdnOnt

           Her call was 10 minutes early, and it sounded like she was in the back of a limo or Uber as she began to talk. The voice in Victoria belonged to Silken Laumann, a Canadian Olympic hero two decades removed. With the help of a chain of PR folks, I had contacted her to discuss Hudson Boat Works, the London, Ont. maker of elite row boats, many of which will appear in the upcoming Rio Olympics.

            Despite their best intentions, it’s common for a call or meeting arranged by a PR rep to be delayed or cancelled. You don’t need a PR rep if you’re not a busy person with lots of demands on your time. Laumann works with GoodLife Fitness, so it was their PR folks who told me when to expect her call. When my phone rang early, identified as GoodLife, I expected someone was calling to reschedule.

            But it was Laumann herself, apologizing for being early (!) and happy to talk about the boats she rowed during her career, her relationship with Hudson and other boat makers, and the importance of rowing to London itself.

            Much of what she said can be found in my Business London cover story this month. As she spoke, she stopped periodically to give directions to her driver. She seemed to know the area better than he did. But then she hopped right back into our conversation each time.

            She doesn’t row anymore but cheers for her son and daughter, both world-class rowers at their respective colleges. “I do triathlons for fun, as well as yoga and skiing, lots of activities,” she said.

           Laumann was among the very last Olympic rowers to switch from wooden boats and oars to carbon fibre, following the 1992 Games. In Atlanta four years later, she was in a Hudson carbon fibre shell and won a silver medal in single sculls. “Hudson knocked it out of the park with that design,” she said. “It was an outstanding boat.”

            Hudson has been knocking it out of the park ever since, supplying boats to competitive rowers and rowing clubs around the world. Its iconic shark fin will be visible on dozens of boats from various countries in Rio.

            As our conversation ended, Laumann arrived at her destination and told her driver where to park. “My son is driving today,” she said with a verbal wink. And with that, she said goodbye.