Make Every Stroke Count

I’ve never written an article that has been something other than hockey or football or an article that has left such an effect on my heart.

Until I heard of a Regatta.

 1. a sporting event consisting of a series of boat or yacht races.
Then I met a girl named Emily Rose Brettell.
Emily was born in 1999 on April 7th. Her heart unexpectedly stopped August 12th of 2016. She was only seventeen years old. But this story isn’t about her heartbreaking passing. It’s about the beautiful and badass life she lived in those short seventeen years.
Emily starting rowing when she was in grade nine and did it until her last minutes here on Earth. In that amount of time she earned some of the highest rowing honors. She isn’t the best of the best. She is simple THE best. There is truly no other way to put it.
Below is her rowing honors if that gives you a glimpse of the athlete she is.
  • US Club Nationals 2016- Silver in Women’s Intermediate Lwt 4x
  • CSSRA 2016- Gold in Sr 63kg 2x -Gold in 53kg Sr 4+
  • Stotesbury 2016- Gold in Lwt Sr 4+
  • Ontario Erg Champs 2016- 2nd place in Lwt Jr 2000m erg
  • Head Of The Charles Regatta 2015- 10th place in Woman’s Youth Doubles
  • Canadian Henley 2015- Second place in U17 4+ – 5th place in U17 8+
  • ROWONTARIO Championships 2015- Gold in U17 4+ – Gold in U17 8+ – Silver in
  • U17 4x – Silver in U17 2x
  • CSSRA 2015- Silver in Open Jr 4x – 4th place in Open Jr 2x
  • Stotesbury 2015- Gold in Lwt Sr 4+
  • Ontario Erg Champs 2015- 1st place in Lwt Jr 2000m erg 
  • Canadian Erg Champs 2015- 4th place in Lwt Jr 2000m erg 
  • CSSRA 2014- Silver in Mwt Jr 4+, Bronze in Mwt Jr 8+

Not only are these a head turner but she was currently attending Row Ontario Junior National Development Camp.


People go throughout life without doing half of the things she did. She lived so many more than seventeen years worth of living. Her determination is admirable. She is the type of person to make others want to be better and work harder, which is how everyone should try to be.

She was getting recruited by schools all over the country. So many schools wanted her to join their rowing team because these coaches knew how special she is and how having an athlete like her join their team would be the biggest jump a team could ask for.

Emily refused to be average and I promise you, she was far from it.

I don’t think I will ever meet another person who goes to the gym twice a day, goes to practice AND portions out their peanut butter just right. Because with her hard workout ability came a healthy diet that gave her the lead. She is a lightweight rower and worked to be that way.

Each day that she was here, she was better than the day before.

Emily left a mark on people, that people can only dream of.

She left behind her mother, Kerry, her father, Dave, and her three siblings, Sarah, Michael and Katherine. Five strong family members who will continue to live like Emily and make the moments count.

Essentially because if they didn’t she would be ready to kick their ass. 🙂

You may have noticed that I always used the word Emily “is” instead of “was.” Because though she is not physically with us, she is still here and is incredible to all lengths of life.

My good friend Courtney told me a saying that has really stuck with me. “People die twice in their life. Once when their souls leave their body, and once when their name is last spoken.” This is true. Emily will truly never die.

No one will ever stop sharing her memories and saying “I want to row like Emily Brettell. I want to be the athlete she is.”

At the beginning of your day, I hope you think of Emily and live life just as she would. I hope at the very end of your life you can truly say with a full heart that you made every stroke count. Just as Emily.

Below is Emily’s recruiting video she created herself. It’s more than just a recruiting video actually, it’s a glimpse into her life.



Rest in heaven Emily Rose. ❤



About ashleyvanochten

Intern for ESPN 100.9
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