row2k Features
Canada's Kevin Light: Part III
January 19, 2011
Erik Dresser,

Kevin Light

row2k concludes its three-part interview with Canada's Kevin Light. Light was a member of the Canadian men's eight from 2002 to 2008. In Part III of the feature, Kevin talks about his 2010 season and about his love for photography and video production.

Read about Athens in Part I and Beijing in Part II.

row2k: Injuries derailed your 2010 season quite a bit, what was the extent of those issues and how are you recovering?
Kevin Light: Things started to go bad for me in April after we returned from a 2 week training camp in Sacramento. I had not done any activity during the year following the Olympics because I was tired, in photography school, and could not make the transition from training to exercise. I had become so reliant on getting the workout plan from Mike and doing that program as hard as I could each day, that when there was no program I did no more workouts. I did not gain weight but I just got fat.

I was getting back into shape and things were looking pretty good in Sacramento, but when we returned I got a blood clot in my left calf that was originally diagnosed as a muscle problem. It kept getting worse and for the next two weeks I was having more and more trouble walking, but as I normally do I just kept pushing and pushing until I could barely walk. We did a trial for the Bled world Cup and by then I was having serious issues as it felt like the blood was not cycling through my legs and after 45 seconds the lactate would build up and not go away. I did a practice time trial and by the end of it we finished with a slow time and when I laid back my legs were shaking and everything went black. Ten minutes passed which felt like one and we rowed back to the dock slowly and I told Mike I could not participate in the trial.

I can't remember how I ended up at the hospital but they diagnosed me with a clot in my superficial vein hanging into my deep vein. I spent 10 days going to the hospital each day getting medication and checkups to make sure I was alright. The blood thinners helped and I was able to row again after the 10 days. I rowed with Dave Calder while the team was in Bled and when they got back Dave and I were moving the pair well enough to make the four for Lucerne. The day we left, the doctor told me it was safe to go off my medication which was a mistake as four days after arriving in Eton prior to Henley I experienced some very painful clotting issues and after numerous trips to the hospital in Britain I flew home. I spent another 10 days in the hospital and went back on the blood thinners.

I qualified to row in a four for New Zealand which I was happy about because there were definitely days in the previous 2 months when I was sure I would never row again. Looking back those injuries took a toll on how much quality training I was able to do leading into the Worlds, but at the time I did not see them as big obstacles, I just kept thinking about how I was able to overcome the problem. After we arrived in New Zealand, I had one more accident where an erg handle broke in our warm-up tent. Since I was on the erg because it was too windy to row, I did not have any shoes on and when the handle broke my momentum threw me backwards and when my seat hit the backstop my feet came out, over my head and I fell off the high model-E erg directly down on my head. I had a concussion and had to go to the hospital for an MRI to make sure there was no internal bleeding inside my brain.

Being on the blood thinners makes hits like that to the head quite dangerous. My head was alright but it still took me two days of rest before I could row again. I had lost my appetite and threw up a couple of times the morning after it happened. We raced and it was not what I was used to as we did not make the A final. We had a better race two days later in the B final, but got caught in the outside lane which made it difficult to compete. I can't complain too much since we were in the B final, but if I was in the British, Italian, or United States fours, who were also in the outside lanes for the A final, I would have been extremely disappointed. As far as my health goes I'm still taking blood thinners and still having ultrasounds done on my legs to see if anything can be done to help my body deal with the clots. As far as training has gone since I have been back, we have a ways to go in terms of commitment to each other and to the program if we want to get back to winning races and challenging the top crews for a place on the medal podium.

The good news so far this year is my health has not held me back and I have been able to push and compete at a level closer to what I know is necessary to win. I have also seen the group competitiveness and team atmosphere improve and I believe it is headed in the right direction and if we stay committed to the program and capitalize on the potential of each training session I expect we will be challenging crews in the A final once again.

row2k: One of your other passions is rowing photography, how did you get into that and what is it about rowing that makes it a good photographic subject for you?
Kevin Light: The best thing about rowing that makes it a good subject for photography is that I have been involved in it for half my life. That amount of time looking and being involved in it gives me the opportunity to separate the unique situation from the ordinary. If you spent 15 years hiking Mount Everest your standard of what makes a good picture would be so much higher than if you hiked it once. I have an accumulation of so many images in my head that I can pick out the unique ones when they happen, because when they happen they happen quickly and you have to be aware to catch them. Being an athlete myself I know what it feels like to row with blisters, what it feels like to erg, to row in the rain or the heat, and I think my photos carry with them the emotion of the situations.

I don't have a passion for rowing photography in particular; I have a passion for emotional sports photography. We learned in school that sports photography is about capturing the peak action moment, which means you have to have the ball and the athlete in their peak action moment. I like capturing those images because they look like the professional shots but they are so obvious that I don't really find them that challenging. I love thinking like the athlete and imagining what they are thinking and taking a photo that gets across what they are feeling.

View some of Kevin's favorite images from 2010 Henley and Worlds here or visit his photography website.

row2k: You have produced some exceptional videos like Inches, and your C2 Erg Contest Video. What do you like about the process of creating these and why do you think they've become so popular? (Editor's Note - the Inches video has over 370,000 views on YouTube)
Kevin Light: The Inches video which is the most popular of mine on YouTube was actually Brian Richardson's idea when he was the head men's coach in Canada leading into Athens. He gave me a similar sports video done to the Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday and asked if I could make a rowing version. It took me three years before I put it on YouTube but I'm glad I did because I get updates on the comments that are written every day and some of them are quite inspirational. Its popularity is due to the great speeches by Al Pacino and Vince Lombardi which I had nothing to do with except editing them slightly to fit the context of rowing a bit better.

The other element that makes it popular is that the images I was able to include were mainly from a World Championship crew and everyone wants an inside look into what the best are doing. The pacing of images to music and the speed of the images has been something I have always been pretty good at. A half second one way or half second the other or a clip at 50% speed or full speed can make a big difference. You can't just throw random clips together and expect the video to flow. Each one needs to have a purpose and each one has to be placed in a spot where it is most effective and I spend quite a bit of time making sure it is all correct, which is the way it should be with video projects.

Since I didn't have a deadline for the video I made it perfect for me before I put it up for everyone else to see. Doing it any other way would be frustrating because every time I would watch it, I would think, 'I wish I would have changed that clip or included that photo.' It is rewarding watching it knowing that there is nothing you would change about it. Another reason it is popular is because it that it included male and female rowers which was Brian Richardson's request as he asked me to make it for the team. We watched it before Athens and each athlete got a copy.

The erg video was something I set out to do because a lot of my friends told me I should enter a video for the contest. It was fun to make and it was a nice combination of slow motion video and photographs that I had taken over the years. The music choice was also interesting because it was slow and most people don't listen to that type of music while they are on the erg.

When you erg you move back and forth in a slow controlled pace with little change in rhythm. The pain is slow and dull for the most part like what it feels like when you can just get enough air to keep yourself from drowning, but as soon as you get enough someone pushes you back under the water. Slow and dull pain on an erg may seem like a strange way to describe it because it is quite painful but it is a different type of pain than getting slashed or hit playing hockey or getting hit when playing football. The erg kills you slowly and softly and I think the video gets that feeling across quite well. But you would not understand that unless you were an athlete who had experienced that type of erg pain.

row2k: Are there any more videos you're working on?
Kevin Light: I'm working on a longer documentary style video about Mike Spracklen with Peter Cookson. It is pretty exciting as I bought a new camera for HD Video, and a lighting kit and wireless microphone for the interviews. It is a little bit slower paced but it is going to be the best video I have made so far. It will end up being 45 minutes long and will talk about everything from Mike's thoughts on technique to his Olympic experiences and how he dealt with them both good and bad. I'm still in the editing stages right now but I already know it is going to be very enjoyable for rowers to watch because it combines the thoughts of a very successful coach with my photographs and a good soundtrack. Put all together it makes it a pretty emotional piece.

row2k: What are your plans for after rowing?
Kevin Light: To be involved with sports and photography. My ideal job would be to travel to sporting events world-wide taking photos, but I don't know how to get there but I'm sure once I devote some time to it I will figure out the path to success. I'm from Canada, so hockey is pretty close to my heart and if I could get involved in the NHL in some way that would be awesome. The Canadian football league is also a sport I'm really quite passionate about since my Dad took me to my first B.C. Lions football game when I was five years old. Football is also a favorite sport of mine to photograph because the more you understand the game the better photos you can get.

Initially though, my biggest priority after rowing is to spend some time with my wife Zoe, who rowed in the women's pair in Beijing and as a result spent the 3 years leading up to that training in London, Ontario while I trained in Victoria. Now for the past two years she has been in Lethbridge, Alberta studying nursing and I have been in Victoria training so spending some time together is high on my list of things to do.

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