Myma Okuda-Rayfuse – Nursing student
McMaster nursing student Myma Okuda-Rayfuse cried with joy when she won gold at the 135th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta last month.
"My coach had so much faith in me, but I didn't think I was going to win," said Okuda-Rayfuse. "I was so happy. So surprised. All the hard work I put into it culminated in that one moment."
A rower for only three years, she competed in the "Under 23 Lightweight Women's Singles" against 31 boats from around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Mexico and Canada. The regatta is regarded as the North American amateur rowing championship.
The fourth year nursing student races with Leander Boat Club of Hamilton, as well as with McMaster University. "I actually started rowing at McMaster. I've only been rowing for three years. I started with the university team."
Okuda-Rayfuse's summer involved more than the rigorous training for rowing, as she also had a research project. She co-lead an evaluation of a community project aimed at seniors, called Circle of Friends. Most days she was up at four in the morning to bike down to Leander Boat Club downtown for rowing practice before riding on to McMaster for research meetings.
"We practice six mornings a week, usually two practices a day," she said. "I find that I actually do better in school because I do this. It gives me a routine, it gets me up in the morning, it gives me something that isn't just school. It's definitely hard but you do adapt."
Assistant professor Dyanne Semogas is one of Okuda-Rayfuse's teachers who is now learning rowing.
"I was very impressed with Myma's energy and passion for learning," she said. "I observed firsthand that Myra applies the same commitment to nursing that she does to rowing. I know this because the tables have turned, and now Myma is teaching me how to row. She's inspired me to stick with this challenge and has shown that she's as good as an instructor as she is a student."