If selected for Tokyo 2020, Canadian Lynda Kiejko will be walking in the footsteps of her father Bill Hare – a three-time Olympic pistol shooter. In order to achieve that goal, while supporting a young family, Kiejko works as an engineer.
The 37-year-old remembers clearly the moment when her father first introduced her to shooting.
“My dad rearranged the basement and built this air pistol range,” recounts Kiejko. “He asked my sister and I: ‘Hey, do you want to give it a try?’”
Both Kiejko and her sister, Dorothy Ludwig, took up the challenge wholeheartedly. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games, they won bronze together in the 10m air pistol pairs. Ludwig went on to compete at London 2012 and Kiejko followed suit at Rio 2016, after winning double gold in the 10m air pistol and 25m pistol at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015.
In Rio, although she loved being part of the Opening Ceremony, she had other things on her mind: “The energy, the electricity in the stadium… having that moment was awesome, but getting home to sleep, to rest… the competition really was a priority over any other experience I was going to have.” In the end, the Canadian placed 38th in both the 10m air pistol and 25m pistol events, which she admits was a blow. “If you haven’t felt like you put your best foot forward, it’s a tough day, no matter where you place.”
She has to work harder than most to achieve her dreams, juggling her sporting career with work as an engineer for a power transmission company that supplies 85% of the electricity in her home region Alberta.
“I went into engineering because I love math,” she recounts, pointing out that attention to detail is important in both disciplines. “Engineering and shooting have a lot in common. There’s a direct correlation. In engineering, when you’re dealing with a problem, you’re going to look at the big picture and figure out how it all fits together and then break it down into individual parts so you understand how everything works. In shooting it’s very similar.”
Kiejko works with a programme called Game, Plan which is a programme to help Canadian athletes maintain a good life/work/training balance.
“I think Lynda is hyper focused and knows exactly what she wants,” says Cara Button from the Canadian Sport Institute. “And she’s just gone for it and not let anything stop her and not put excuses in the way. She wanted a career and she’s made that happen, but she didn’t give up her career as an athlete. She looked at it as ‘I want both and I can do both.’”
Believing that “family trumps everything else,” Kiejko relies on her partner to do a majority of the childcare of their young daughter while she is off competing. “She’s actually gone for quite a bit of time so a lot of the time I’m playing ‘Mr mom’,” says her partner Kevin.
In 2014, one month after the birth of her daughter, Kiejko won the national title in the 10m air pistol. The family have had financial challenges in order to support Kiejko in her Olympic dream. “It’s definitely not a cheap endeavour,” admits her partner.
Kiejko agrees that keeping all the parts to her life in balance needs constant attention: “As a not fully funded athlete, you can’t go full steam ahead for four years. You know that at certain times competition needs to take a priority, then work, then there’s going to be time when it’s just family.”
What remains clear to the Canadian, however, is her goal to honour her late father’s name by making it to Tokyo.
“My dad competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and it would be incredible to get there and walk in his footsteps… it would be a hugely special moment.”