The sport of canoeing lost a giant yesterday. John Wood was an inspirational man for multiple generations of Canadian paddlers, canoe and kayak alike. I don't recall when I first met John, sometime in the fall of 1995 when I first took to the water at the Burloak Canoe Club I suppose. I remember Larry telling me about who he was and that he won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics. I could tell how inspirational he had been for Larry throughout his early career. Whenever John's Silver "AG 76" license-plated Porsche was parked at the club I'd be excited to see him out on the water. He was the retired Rock Star the canoe club never had, he was so cool, and so fit, and he was older than our dads. He was snowboarding before any of us had ever heard of a Burton or a halfpipe. He'd usually get out for his 10k paddle before my group was on the water. He'd seemingly sprint the whole thing, I never once saw him with his paddle down on the creek. He'd go for a 10k paddle and take like 65 strokes a minute for the whole thing without a break, still sweating and breathing hard as he wiped the creek water from his wooden canoe. The man epitomized a lifelong dedication to sport and fitness to me.
I had the honour of lighting John's Torch in the Vancouver Olympic Torch Relay with mine. I remember telling him how it should be the other way around, and that Larry should be between us on the relay... and he just smiled in his no-worries way and said, "ah, this'll be fun".
We emailed occassionally, usually about politics in Canadian sport, his vehement disgust of doping and Burloak business. In flipping through our most recent correspondance I saw his latest email signed off with "Time for lunch?", and I didn't reply. Sorry John... I really wish we had sat down. I'll really miss you.