Olympians Emily Zurrer and Michael Braithwaite wow Cow High crowd

Grade 12 student Ben Ingham has his mug signed by Olympic rower and Cow High grad Michael Braithwaite. He and fellow London Olympian Emily Zurer visited their alma mater Friday. - Andrew Leong
Grade 12 student Ben Ingham has his mug signed by Olympic rower and Cow High grad Michael Braithwaite. He and fellow London Olympian Emily Zurer visited their alma mater Friday.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

The tally of London Olympians stoking The Warm Land hit three Friday as Cowichan secondary grads Emily Zurrer and Michael Braithwaite thrilled students and staff at their alma mater.

The visit by bronze-medal soccer player Zurrer, and double-scull oarsman Braithwaite, followed last week's Brentwood College stop by medal-winning rower Malcolm Howard.

"Today's been a big change for me because I just see regular things everyday, but today was, like, wow," raved Grade 12er Nicole Wood after meeting the star pair that spoke to hundreds of students on Cow High's front lawn.

Principal Charlie Coleman was also chuffed about hosting his school's esteemed grads "from the elite level of the world."

Zurrer and Braithwaite, both 25, signaled they aim to stay in that tip-top athletic class, aiming for Brazil's 2016 Olympics.

"It's awesome seeing familiar faces and young faces who could try and do the same thing," said centre-back kicker Zurrer, her shiny bronze medal dangling from her neck.

Crofton product Zurrer's undergoing rehab for a hamstring injury that prevented her Olympic play in London.

Her goal is to play in Canada's 2015 World Cup, toward a slot in the 2016 Games.

"Always believe, and you'll get there," she told throngs of adoring, camera-shooting pupils armed with pads,T-shirts and other stuff signed by the visiting celebrities.

Braithwaite, who now lives in Victoria, had similar advice for students after his Olympic debut where he and teammate, Kevin Kowalyk, finished 12th in their demanding double-skull category.

To Braithwaite, the Games — and the road to them — was all about learning, not just earning medals.

"Don't be complacent, (but know) there'll be someone better."

The oarsman told the News Leader Pictorial the London Games lent him a world-level "measuring stick" about his abilities "and what you have to do to catch up, or stay ahead."

Reaching for rowing in Rio 2016 was his goal, and London's Games were a career bonus of experience, Braithwaite noted.

He has a decade of oar smarts beyond those being pulled by CSS pupils and Maple Bay rowers Emily Whitaker, and Kate Brigham.

"Today is awesome," said Brigham. "I row at Maple Bay Rowing Club, and Michael Braithwaite used to row there too."

Whitaker simply called the Olympians' stop at Cow High "cool."

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