THE HANA HOU SERIES
Wahine o Hawai`i
© 1999 Kawika Sands
SHEILA LEILEHUA CONOVER-DOYLE:
Upon telling her of my vision for the Keiki Outrigger Camp this past summer, her very first question was "How can I help?" Her willingness to share and participate extended to the Keiki when she appeared at Camp to give them a paddling demonstration, talk to them about her Olympic career and meet with them on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps even inspiring a future olympian?
One thing I didn't really notice in her office when we were all in casual attire was her stature. After her presentation at Camp, when Sheila and I spoke to discuss the following interview, I noticed how much TALLER she was. And (embarrassingly for me), how buffed! I can only imagine the kind of shape she was in during the height of her Olympic training!
An Interview with Sheila:
How did you first get into paddling?
"My (Portuguese) mother was born and raised in Hilo. She met my father on Guam when he was the Administer of Public Health in the Trust Territory. On occasion, my father would go canoe sailing and canoe fishing with his friends from the Marshall and Palau Islands. When I was too young to paddle canoes I would run up and down the beach as my three older sisters would practice paddling and their regatta turns. They paddled for Grampa Kalama's Newport Outrigger Club in Newport Beach, California.
How did you find your way to the Olympics, THREE times?
"Billy Whitford had just returned from the 1980 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Trials. He went to the trials with 4 local athletes, 3 of them already Olympians. Upon his return he had a meeting with the women's canoe team and told all of us about this exciting sport of Olympic style canoeing and kayaking. He rounded up some equipment and about 12 of us women spent the next three months flipping. I had just turned 18 and was still eligible to compete at the 1981 Jr. World Championship Team Trials.
How many times have you done Moloka`i?
"I paddled the first official Na Wahine O Ke Kai when I was 16. Since then I have only missed 6 races due to my back or work."
Any humorous anecdotes?
"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing""
What are your plans for the future?
"I owe my paddling career to Billy Whitford. He opened doors of opportunity, and taught me how to be appreciative, humble and how to do my best. Winning was important to Billy and I but it was never emphasized. Rather Billy's philosophy instilled in me was to take the risk by being better than I had ever been and accept the outcome as a "gracious loser or as a humble winner." It's my turn now to give back to the keiki's in outrigger canoeing and kayaking by providing the guidance to life enriching opportunities while instilling the same championship philosophy bestowed upon me."
What advice would you offer an aspiring paddler?
"To keep paddling in perspective with their family, friends, and responsibilities. To remember that the fun and love of paddling comes from the training experiences that lead to the start line, then to finish line and then to the next season. Outrigger paddling is so special; for me outrigger canoeing is the "fluff" in my life that anchors me, spiritually inspires me, motivates me and keeps me coming back for more whether I win or lose a race. I simply love to race in an outrigger canoe."
Hele on to Canoe Club News
Last Modified: Monday - 19991115.12:29 EST
Copyright © 1999 Kawika Sands
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