An interview with kayaker Richard Dober, DC
They’re both about determination and the will to be better than
yourself,” says 27-year-old chiropractor and Olympic kayak athlete,
Richard Dober Jr., when asked how high-end sports competition relates
to being a DC.
|Richard Dober, DC, and his paddling partner Andrew Willows in Beijing.|
Dober, recently returned from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and a graduate of the chiropractic program at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), will now begin to work at organizing his career. He is a member of a chiropractic family – his sister will also soon be graduating from the UQTR chiropractic program and his father, Dr. Richard Dober Sr., has been in practice for several years. Having grown up in this environment, he has developed a passion for working in healthcare and feels it is the best way he can give back to a society from which, he acknowledges, he has received so much.
“It is my responsibility to give back,” he tells Canadian Chiropractor, “and I think being a chiropractor is the best way for me to do that.”
But the Dober family was also a competitive paddling family and, through this, Dober developed his own history as an accomplished kayak athlete.
The Canoe Culture of Trois-Rivières
Richard Dober Jr. grew up at a time when marathon canoeing was gaining popularity in Canada. The sport had gathered a following in the United States and was adopted with some enthusiasm by the Québec region which became the city of Trois-Rivières. Dober’s parents became avid paddlers who competed in C-2 canoe races with a degree of success. At two years old, Dober could be found in the canoe seat while his parents paddled, and began paddling, himself, at the age of six years old.
Between six and seven years of age, Dober moved to flatwater kayaking where he was soon making waves in his own right.
At age eleven, Dober raced in his first provincial championship. He and his K-4 paddling team, then the B-crew at his club, were up against teams older and stronger than themselves and were, therefore, considered the underdog.
“Our coach gave us a kayak and told us that it had won a gold medal,” recalls Dober. “In fact, this was not the case, at all. But he concocted the story and we believed him. We were so honoured to be allowed to use this special kayak that we went out there and gave the race our most serious effort. And we won!”
Dober notes that this experience taught him how powerful a tool the mind can be in any situation! He also recalls that this unexpected victory made the idea of winning an addictive one and thus, he was drawn into the world of serious competition.
A world of opportunities
Richard Dober began competing in kayak races across the country and, at 15 years of age, captured his first national medal, a silver, at the Canadian Championships. The year after that, he earned one gold (K-1 6000 metres) and two silver (K-4 1000 metres and K-1 1000) medals at the Canada Games and, followed that by qualifying, at 18 years old, for the Junior World Championships. By 2001, Dober was ready to compete at the senior level but found this to be a huge jump in the progression that had defined his paddling career.
“This level of competition was much more difficult,” notes Dober.
Nevertheless, he and his team overcame their difficulties and captured awards in the World Championships in the K-2 and K-4 events.
Dober’s life was about to become even more challenging as, in 2002, he began his chiropractic studies at UQTR. He completed his first and second years amidst the kayak training and competing schedule that were to garner him a spot in the 2004 Olympics.
“Most of my instructors were very understanding,” he recalls of this difficult period, “but I had a responsibility to complete a certain amount of work successfully. It was very hard.”
In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, Dober and his K-2 and K-4 teams placed 16th and 9th respectively – an accomplishment they were very proud of, since they had been considered underdogs from the start, not even being expected to qualify for a spot to compete.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is a more complicated process than qualifying for the World Championships,” explains Dober. “In the Worlds, if you are the best in your country, you automatically qualify. With the Olympics, the number of entries is limited. So, there are several qualifying rounds, as there are so many competitors to be eliminated. But, in the end, we were able to qualify.”
After Athens, Dober, with his new K-2 partner Andrew Willows, continued to train and compete, coveting a spot in the 2008 Beijing games. Also, in 2005, Dober returned to the chiropractic program, from which he had taken a one year leave.
|Dober and his partner continue to train for 2012 in London, England.|
Excellence through chiropractic
Richard Dober Jr. soon learned his training in chiropractic could teach him much about being a competitive athlete.
“I was inspired by the intense dedication that I saw in the students around me,” recalls Dober, “these people were very focused on their learning and motivated me to pull into focus at those times when I was finding it hard to do so.”
Dober says it was this level of dedication to the chiropractic profession, in his fellow students at UQTR, that he will take with him as he, too, begins practice – but it also carried into his training as an athlete.
“I don’t feel that I have much to pass on to chiropractors, at this point in time, but I feel that, in fact, I learned much from them about determination and survival.”
Dober also notes that his chiropractic lessons in human biomechanics influenced how he trained as an athlete and how he approached his paddling actions.
“Most of the injuries in kayaking are really overuse injuries,” he notes. “My training in chiropractic helped me to avoid many of those. I’m glad that I was able to gain an understanding of that, so that I could use it to compete better.”
Beijing and beyond
Although Dober notes that, in terms of placement, he and his paddling partner Andrew Willows had high expectations for Beijing, he is proud to be able to say that they executed what they set out to execute; that is, they raced in the finals with no technical errors. And placed sixth in doing so.
Dober and Willows will continue to train in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London, England.
“Our efforts are going to be more intense, this time,” says Dober, “we plan to practice as much as possible and build on what we learned in Beijing.
Dober plans to also take this philosophy into the clinic as he now enters into his career as a chiropractor, along with his father, Dr. Dober Sr.
For more information about Dr. Dober Jr., please visit the website www.k2speed.ca.•
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