Almost Olympics

Rower Kelly Britton-Foster and her teammates pulled their way to medals and even made the Canadian Olympic team for 1980 — but they never got to go to Moscow.

Kelly Britton-Foster didn’t get to go to the Olympics in 1980 after Canada boycotted the event. However

Kelly Britton-Foster didn’t get to go to the Olympics in 1980 after Canada boycotted the event. However

Rower Kelly Britton-Foster and her teammates pulled their way to medals and even made the Canadian Olympic team for 1980 — but they never got to go to Moscow.

That was the year Canada, following the lead of Jimmy Carter and the United States, decided to boycott the international sporting event because Russia did not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

“We heard grumbling of a boycott in November 1979,” Britton-Foster, who now lives in Ladysmith with her family. “It wrecked the whole training thing. There was a shadow already on it.”

The rowing team of eight still qualified for Canadian Olympic team, but soon found out all the Canadian Olympians would not be going.

“It was pretty disappointing,” Britton-Foster said. “Some people felt it was the right thing to do.”

At age 19, Britton-Foster wasn’t too interested in the political goings-on, however. She was busy practicing rowing four hours a day and attending Simon Fraser University.

But she said the boycott took the wind of her sails and she got out of rowing. Plus, she wanted a family and she said she felt she had done what she wanted to do.

Britton-Foster said she is a positive person, and she can’t really complain. To say that rowing had a big impact on her life would be an understatement.

While still in her teens, Britton-Foster travelled to places like New Zealand, Switzerland and Bled, Yugoslavia. She met her husband, who was also a rower. Not only that, her university education was paid for. She, like other athletes, also got a living allowance of $215 a month, and a $50 training subsidy. Amazingly, she managed to live on that.

“It was a good life,” Britton-Foster said.

But missing the Olympics was still a disappointment.

“I still can’t watch an opening or closing ceremony with out a tear,” Britton-Foster said. “I allow myself that little indulgence.”

Britton-Foster’s rowing team made at least one monumental achievement, despite missing the sporting event. Women’s rowing wasn’t added as an Olympic sport until 1976, so there was not a long history behind it.