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Pam Boteler - Canoeing

Pam BotelerHometown: Beltsville, MD
Current Residence: Alexandria, VA

Sport: Sprint Canoe (Olympic Style/High Kneel)

Pro/Elite since: 2002
Date of Birth: May 20, 1968
Website: www.justcanoeit.com

Favorite fruit: champagne mangos, bananas, oranges
Favorite veggie: greens, celery
Hobbies/Other sports: outrigger, running

1. When and why did you choose to stop eating animal products?

The transition from vegetarian to vegan began about 2 years ago (after the transition from the 'SAD' to vegetarian 4 years prior to that). It honestly has been a quiet, slow and private evolution, starting first as compassion for my health - my body - of which I had struggled with for many years. Then I started to read more about the disgusting ways in which animal foods go from farm to plate - which still made it more about my health than animal welfare, but it was the first step in looking outside myself to the animals themselves. Then, for some reason, more information (and people helping explain this information) about animal welfare seemed to come my way, and it was hitting closer to home. I actually started to feel emotional pain reading stories and seeing horrific video of animal treatment, slaughterhouses, how they are transported, the drugs, living conditions, etc. And now even more recent, it has evolved finally to compassion for the environment - learning more about the impact of the animal/food industry and its profoundly detrimental impact on the environment. My choices have just been an evolution of sorts - but taking it slowly and methodically has really helped me fully ingrain and bring full circle what I've been experiencing internally with what I have been learning about my external environment.

2. What has been your experience as a vegan athlete? Have you noticed any performance or health benefits or problems?

I just feel better overall. It has been nothing but a positive, and transformative, change. Even more so now, my body would not be able to handle meat or other animal products. My digestive tract just wouldn't handle it and frankly, my taste buds would reject it. Performance wise - for training and racing - I feel like I have a deeper reserve - physically, mentally and emotionally. I had a very strong year and a half of training and racing from the winter of 2006 to May 2007 - doing both sprint (high kneel) canoe and twice competing in long distance outrigger races. Relying on fruits as my fuel, I honestly felt I could dig deeper and stay there longer, than ever before. As if there was a new reservoir of energy I could tap in to.

3. Have teammates and other athletes been supportive or critical?

Feeling like a bit of an outcast in a heavy meat and dairy sport is an understatement, and have been called a fanatic. For the most part, it is not an issue or at least I do not make it an issue. I support others in their choices and allow them to support me in mine. I try to steer conversation away from food and toward friendship or other things we have more in common. If they really want to talk and have questions, then I just speak from my own personal experience and what eating this way has done for me. Then they see what I do and can do, and that becomes my strongest (non-verbal) message. My performances and work ethic have spoken for themselves; and as an older athlete in the sprint discipline, it is even more intriguing to others. Some of the private comments or jokes insinuate 'She must be taking something' or 'What's in that shake?' I just smile - outside and inside - because it just confirms I am on the right path for myself.

4. A brief history of your athletic career.

* Basketball - elementary school - college
* Cross-country and track - high school and college.
* Collegiate Hall of Fame - basketball and cross-country
* 1989 National Champion NCAA DIII women's basketball
* Competed internationally on the US National Dragon Boat team from 1992-1995 and again in 2000 and 2001 (when I raced with the mixed crew to win the World Swan Boat Championship in Thailand, and with the Men's team finishing 2nd.). Competed in sprint kayak 1996-1999, then sprint canoe and occasionally outrigger (singles and six-person crews) from 2000 to the present. Coached Girls/Women's basketball from 1991-1998.

5. Most memorable results or achievements (top 5)

a. 2000 US National Sprint Canoe/Kayak Championships - first woman to race in sprint canoe at the Nationals. This was the first year in the 90 year history of the sport in the US that USA Canoe/Kayak (USACK - national sport governing body) opened up the Men's canoe events to women (Intermediate category only). Finished 3rd in the singles (C1)1000 and 500 meter events, and teamed with a Canadian woman to win Gold in the Men's 500m Doubles Canoe (C2) event. Racing against the men in 2000 and 2001 was the final prompting to cause USA Canoe/Kayak to change its by-laws to add women-only events at the National Championships. I remain unbeaten in the US.

b. 2002 US National Marathon Team Trials - Men's Canoe (non-Olympic event). First woman in the US and the world to do a marathon canoe event high kneel - racing against men (no women's events). Race was 30 kilometers and I finished 2nd. Just my entry forced conversation within the sport as to 'What if a woman met the qualification criteria to compete at the World Championships'(where women are prohibited from racing) and 'Would USACK lobby for her to compete if she qualified?' I did not meet the time standard for men, but I cleared the air on what was possible for women in canoe, racing again at the Trials in 2003. This sparked a series of events that has eventually led USACK to add women's canoe events to the National Team Trials (in 2008), and prompting officials to name a national women's marathon canoe team in 2008 for the first time. Women are still prohibited from racing internationally in marathon canoe.

c. 2003 World Canoe/Kayak Championships - first World Championships to include women's canoe (as exhibition). I was the top US canoeist, finishing 5th in the C1 1000 meter event. No one outside of Canada has beaten me in the Singles (C1) events.

d. 2006 Pan American Championships - 5 Silver Medals and 1 Bronze (C1 & C2). The most medals won by anyone on the entire US men's or women's kayak and canoe teams, and the most I had ever won in international competition. My best race was in the C1 500m event, where I lost by only 1.5 seconds, the closest I have come (so far) to beating my Canadian counterparts.

e. 2006 Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Canoe Race (18 miles) - Kailua - Kuna, Hawaii. 1st place with the Washington Canoe Club, Iron Open Koa Division and 11th overall out of 138 six-person - OC6 women's crews. This race took place 2 weeks before the Pan American (Sprint) Championships, (risky from a racing standpoint), but I had never raced outrigger in the ocean and this was the trip of a lifetime. We shocked the outrigger community by becoming the first 'mainland' crew ever to win in the traditional 'Koa' (wood) boat division (made out of the rare Koa tree) and were the first mainland crew across the line against mostly carbon fiber/glass boats, which are much lighter. Magical day with a magical crew when we all gelled physically and mentally.

6. Why did you join OA's PRO-Activist team?
I admire and respect everything this organization is about and stands for. I always want to be associated with people who live an active life - testing themselves and learning about themselves physically and mentally every day. But I also like to be around people that live passionately and healthfully and who are activists for causes that benefit other people and society as a whole - people that want to be positive change agents in the world. I really do believe in that old Margaret Meade quote:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."