Two-time Olympic rower named Canada’s chef de mission for Pan Am Games

Canada's Douglas Vandor. (Alik Keplicz/AP)

TORONTO — Douglas Vandor expects to be busy at this summer’s Pan American Games.

The two-time Olympic rower from Dewittville, Que., has been named Canada’s chef de mission at this summer’s Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

And with 39 sports — six more than the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — Vandor will be on the go for the majority of the July 26-Aug. 11 Games.

"It’s crazy, there’s 423 events over 39 sports … a lot of sports," Vandor said from Vancouver on Monday.

The 44-year-old rowed in men’s lightweight double sculls at the Beijing Games in 2008 and in London in 2012. He’s never competed in a Pan Am Games, as the dates always conflicted with rowing’s World Cup schedule.

"It just never worked for transportation of the boats and the athletes and all that stuff," he said. "Trying to get the A team from Europe to let’s say Mexico and back to Europe for another World Cup, it was just too much."

Vandor does have Pan Am experience however, as the media attache for the rowing and boxing teams at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

He’s reached out to former cyclist Curt Harnett, who was Canada’s chef — or team manager — at both the Toronto Pan Ams and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"I wasn’t in Rio, but I got to see second-hand through TV how (Harnett) did stuff there, and just talking to him through the interview process for this job, he was alluding to the fact how busy the days are, and how are you going to prioritize, he was asking me," Vandor said. "And I think it is really busy, there are so many different sports, and you’re probably pulled in all directions.

"But from my point of view, the athletes come first and that’s how I’ll prioritize the days. It’s about the athletes, it’s their moment on the world stage, and that’s going to be first and foremost."

The Pan American Games are a key part of the Olympic qualifying process for as many as 23 sports, some of them directly such as field hockey and water polo — win and you’re in — and some indirectly. In some sports, athletes can win an Olympic quota spot for their sport, but the athlete who will actually compete in Tokyo in that spot is determined later. In some sports such as track and field, the Pan Am Games is an opportunity to achieve an Olympic qualifying standard.

The Games are also a chance for athletes to gain experience in a multi-sport environment before Tokyo.

"It’s always going into these types of large events, it’s always a great opportunity to simulate what an Olympics is like, and so it’s just great experience if you’re able to compete at a Games like this ahead of the Olympics," said Vandor.

The Games are also the biggest stage for several non-Olympic sports such as bowling, squash, water skiing and wakeboard.

Vandor is keen to put his Spanish to use — he studied the language for three years at McGill University — when he travels to Lima for a sneak peak at preparations in March.

The Pan Ams represent the largest sporting event Lima has ever hosted, but preparations have been lagging. Organizers have been instructed to speed up the pace in several areas.

Vandor rowed for Canada for more than a decade, capturing eight World Cup medals and three world championship medals. Since retiring, he’s remained active in sports. He worked as an athlete services officer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and founded "Follow Your Dream Run," a non-profit organization designed to raise money for physical education programs in local schools in his hometown.

He’s also worked with athletes through the RBC Olympians Mentorship Matching Program.

The Pan Am Games bring together 6,700 athletes from 41 countries of the Americas, and feature 62 disciplines in 39 sports.

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