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Mike Trauner Joins Members on Kayaking Expedition

On September 16, a group of Soldier On members attended an introductory event to kayaking at the Ottawa River Canoe Club (ORCC). Little did they know that they were about to race paracanoe star Mike Trauner, currently in training for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021.

It was a beautiful late summer day when nine Soldier On members from the NCR region met on the banks of the Ottawa River. Joining a Soldier On event for the first time was husband and wife, retired Chief Warrant Officer Dan Beaudoin and Warrant Officer Nancy Boutin. For Nancy, the camp was an opportunity to face her fear of water.

“I’ve always had this fear of flipping over and being stuck under water,” she said.

Her husband Dan added: “As a family we always camp near water. It would be wonderful to be able to kayak as a family as well.”

The participants had just finished their introductory briefing and were practicing their strokes on the Ottawa River when Unconquered Award winner Mike Trauner showed up in his Va’a outrigger canoe.

“It’s great to be back with Soldier On again,” said Trauner, whose journey to excellence started here at the Ottawa River Canoe Club three years ago.

“Mike is a great role model for the club, the sport and anybody paddling,” said instructor and club founder Bevin Schmidt, who was excited about Trauner’s surprise visit.

Trauner is a long-time Soldier On member who won two gold medals in indoor rowing at Invictus 2017. He then went on to master the sport of paracanoe, winning three gold medals with his team at the 2018 Ontario Sprint Cup, as well as a bronze medal at the ParaPanAmerican Canoe Championship in Dartmouth Nova Scotia and a bronze medal in São Paulo Brazil in 2019. Devoting six days a week to training, Trauner is now busy preparing for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021.

“This is my first time back at my old club since joining the national team last summer. It’s great to be back and see everyone. If you cheer for me, I’ll win,” Trauner said to the Soldier On participants.

For them, the unexpected visit provided an opportunity to not only try out the recreational kayaks, but also have a go at racing a paracanoe star.

Trauner stayed on the water to socialize and explain the setup of his “Tahitian” Va’a outrigger canoe, a particularly challenging model for beginners as it has no steering.

“It was fantastic meeting Mike. You can tell he really loves what he does,” says retired Captain Louise Smith, who joined Soldier On last year.

She really enjoyed getting out on the water. And surprisingly, so did Nancy Boutin. By the end of the day, Nancy had not only managed to conquer her fear of water but was feeling so comfortable in her kayak that she is now considering applying for a grant to purchase one.

As with many Soldier On events, the benefits of getting together continued to resonate. Reflecting on his experience the day after the event, Soldier On member and camp participant Mike McIntosh said: "Yesterday was great. At first, I did not recognize him, but on the way home- wow- it occurred to me that the kayak activity had re-introduced me to my pre-PTSD self, the former me that I had lost contact with. Yesterday was not my normal avoidance type of day - and I am not sure yet what suddenly came over me and spurred me on to enjoy the day."