A Rose for the Games
The Commonwealth Games were to be in my home city of Victoria in 1994. The Los Angeles Olympic Games had the hybrid tea Olympiad - a terrific idea worth repeating. So, in 1990, I started the undertaking, totally ignorant that it takes a full seven years from hybridizing, testing to commercial production of a hybrid tea.
Ultimately, a miniature was chosen, due to the short time frame. En route, contact was made with some notable hybridizers - Sam McGready, Keith Zary, Felicitas Svedja and Keith Laver. Keith Laver produced what was needed - a red, unnamed cultivar. The selection and acceptance of a suitable name for the miniature was yet another feat.
The approach to one of our most noted Olympic medallists, the rower Silken Laumann was rather circuitous (contact had to be made through a Toronto agent even though she was a local girl). Silken has been a great inspiration having overcome a horrific compound leg fracture just weeks prior to the 1992 Barcelona Games. And - so important for retailing - her name lent itself to the naming of a flower.
By the time of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, there were thousands of bright orange/red miniatures produced. Promotion - equally essential to the introduction of a rose - was much enhanced by the support of the Victoria Flower Festival running concomitantly with the Games. And, large pots of the miniature were supplied for Silken's wedding to John Wallace, another Olympic medallist.
In the process of the undertaking, two other roses were given names significant to our area - a vigorous red Shrub rose "George Vancouver" and a dark red climber, "Quadra" (both members of the Explorer series of Canadian roses), thanks to Agriculture Canada and Iain Ogilvie. Therein lies another story about micro-propagation, to be told another time.
Dr. J. Patrick White
Post Scriptum: Just in case the temptation arises for another such undertaking, I have kept all the documentation as a reminder - the letters, faxes, speeches, newspaper clippings and magazine articles - file drawers full!
The Silken Laumann Story
Silken Laumann started rowing competitively at age 17, after competing in track and field, and advanced through the world sculls ranks. She won bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the double sculls with her sister Daniele, and moved to Victoria BC to train with the Canadian national team. With her gold in the World Championships single sculls in 1991, the stage was set for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
But in May 1992, her hopes of Olympic gold were shattered. In a practice session for a pre-Olympic regatta in Germany, another boat swerved across the lanes, colliding with Silken's and slicing her leg muscles through to the bone. With only ten weeks until the Olympics, walking, let alone competition, seemed out of the question. After operations in Germany and in Canada to pin bones and reattach muscles, she showed incredible determination and courage to work her leg back into shape in time to row, and to win the Olympic bronze in singles.
After both victory and disappointment at the 1995 Pan American Games (she won a gold in singles, but blood testing found a banned ingredient in an over-the-counter cold medicine approved by doctors, and resulted in the gold won by the Canadian fours being forfeit), her career was focussed on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
In Atlanta, Silken gave a small scare to the Canadian fans by finishing second in a semifinal, and having to qualify through an extra "repechage" heat, but she put a strong race in the final, finishing second to the rower from Belarus.
With her Olympic silver to go with her other medals, Silken retired from World competition, married fellow Olympian John Wallace and has started a career as an author and motivational speaker.
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