Moments with Coach Fred

Some memories from time with a remarkable man. Miss you already, pal.

“WHY didn’t you do the chase-me-charlie?!” A coaching legend is yelling at sixteen-year-old me for not taking part in a rowing training session on the Credit River. For all I knew, Fred Loek worked with national-calibre athletes, and took no notice of awkward 130-pound teenage boys who had shown zero speed yet. Wrong.

Years later, on the Credit, I’m the starter as Fred lines up to race his single 200m against his son Jonathan – an accomplished sculler. Papa Loek smirks and takes an egregious flying false start which I don’t bother calling back. I know Fred loves breaking rules.

“WHY would you DO THAT?!” Fred is clad in lycra, covered in chocolate milk, and pissed off. We’re on a cycling ride and one guy rolls over a container lying randomly on a country road. The thing explodes into Fred’s path. The hapless fellow who caused the eruption bears the full brunt of Fritsie fury all the way back to Port Credit.

In the grandstand, a Royal Canadian Henley champion gets told after today’s win that he really has to go for it in tomorrow’s race. In effect, not to settle even for first place so that no one thinks it’s a fluke.

Fred is crouched over an ex rower’s bike, fixing some problem. The rest of us stand around, waiting. “Geez you guys – here I thought I was done rigging your equipment after you stopped rowing….”

An infant grabs Fred’s outstretched finger in her tiny hand. He nods with approval “Yep. Gonna be a sculler.”


World Cup of Dining in Toronto part 2: Japan

“Raindrops keep falling on my head” was playing when I came in out of the flurries. The sushi joint’s waiter cheerfully led me to my table. As I waited for my friend to arrive, I considered whether the ‘local’  music makes restaurants more authentic. Those, such as Bosnia/Serbia last week that featured warbling Balkan voices, might feel truer than those with easy-listening coming out of the speakers.

Certainly, Japanese restaurants are ubiquitous in Toronto. My friend lives near Roncesvalles Avenue, known more for its East European and comfort food places, but sure enough there’s a sushi restaurant on Roncy. I figure I’m more likely to have Japanese food any given month than any other of the 32 nations in the World Cup.

So the menu offering of sashimi, sushi, rolls, tempura, etc was familiar. My friend’s not much of a seafoodie, so we settled on the basics: tuna and salmon sushi plus california rolls and some tempura’d vegetables. I also had  squid sashimi with slivers of cucumber rolled inside. The flavour of the squid was muted, but the rubbery white flesh and crisp cucumber produced a worthwhile texture contrast.

My WCDT  is never going to be mainly about gastronomy. It’s an opportunity to get to know some Toronto neighbourhoods and people better, and to catch up with old friends, as in this case. Jen didn’t much enjoy the reminder that we rowed together in University 20 years (and half our lives) ago, but here we were, still talking rowing after all these years.