As people struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, many have been forced to take a look at their lives and re-evaluate, including Saskatoon's Jarret Kenke.
"I need to start making my own plan," said Kenke, a competitive kayaker, "and focus on my education and becoming a firefighter-paramedic."
Kenke had hoped go to the Tokyo Olympics with Team Canada. Then COVID-19 hit, delaying the Olympics by at least a year. That forced Kenke to re-evaluate, and he ultimately decided that it was time to hang up his Olympic paddle.
"It kind of hits me in waves," he said.
Olympic dreams die hard, and Kenke said some days he feels ripples of regret, after coming so close to being able to compete with Team Canada.
Other days, he said he feels a growing excitement over starting a new chapter.
"For the first time in my life I'm putting something else on the front seat … not always having to juggle other things with paddling. I'm having a lot easier time … with my life now."
Kenke drew on his deep connection to the water in making this difficult decision, weighing the pros and cons, while in self-isolation at his cabin in northern Saskatchewan.
Being a world-class athlete in Saskatchewan usually means — as it certainly did in Kenke's case — that you have to spend a lot of time away from home, depleting savings to have access to the best coaches and training facilities.
Kenke said he spent a lot of time at that cabin up north looking out at the lake, thinking about "what was best for me, my fiancée and my family."
Add in the uncertainty over COVID-19 and whether it will ease for the Olympics next year, and for Kenke, the decision was clear — it was time to end the journey and begin focusing on career and family.
Love of the sport
What isn't ending though, is Kenke's love of the sport.
"I'm planning to try [to] make it to some national championships and … help the team in the best way I can," he said.
He's also committed to helping younger athletes develop their skills in Saskatoon and offering motivation as others make their bid for the national team.
Plus, he's enjoying being out on the water again, with no pressure.
"I think I smile a bit more," he said. "It's not as grueling and painful and, you know, you go out when you want to, and it feels good.
"I think it's been huge really to just be able to go on the water and just enjoy things."