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Chariots and Horses: Life Lessons from an Olympic Rower [Paperback]

Jason Dorland
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 15 2011

Jason Dorland is no stranger to competition. As a rower and coach, he's seen his share of races won and lost. But after a devastating performance at the 1988 Olympics, Jason was overwhelmed by a sense of failure—and with small wonder. Winning at all costs, whereby the playing field is seen as a battlefield, is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to motivating elite athletes. That philosophy coloured his own coaching style—until he met someone who coped with the loss of her own Olympic dream, and viewed competition itself, in a different way.

An honest, intimate look at the reality of high-level athletics, Chariots and Horses is more than a sports story. In charting his progress from struggling athlete to an inspirational coach driven to instill a healthy competitive spirit in his rowers, Jason Dorland shows how in sports and in life, it's all about the journey.

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Chariots and Horses: Life Lessons from an Olympic Rower + The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal
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"An honest and emotionally raw account of how his life was ambushed by failure. But the story does not end with defeat." —Cheryl Clock, St. Catharines Standard


"Jason Dorland beat himself up for years after losing his Olympic race and he doesn't want to see others do the same. —Neil Stevens, The Canadian Press


"Not your typical story about a young man finding his way through sport and his Olympic dream. Inspiring." —Tricia Smith, Olympic rower

"It takes courage to examine the anatomy of a failure and use it as the seed of greatness and fulfilment. [Jason's story] is not only honourable, but highly inspirational." —Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympic Champion, women's hockey

"I would encourage anyone who feels the need to own every rowing book like I do, to go out and purchase a copy [of Chariots and Horses] . . . I tore through the first 100 pages without taking a break and only stopped to allow myself to read some other books before I went to bed." —Eric Lamontagne, Be Smart. Row Hard.


Dorland gets it. Winning is only one part of the sporting adventure. His captivating story will empower you to use sport as a catalyst for the next generation. —Adam Kreek, Olympic Champion, rowing


"At the risk of being arrested by the cliché police, I consider [Chariots and Horses] to be a 'must read' for coaches and rowers—especially coaches. —Brad Alan Lewis, Olympic Champion, rowing and author of Assault on Lake Casitas



"It is a deeply personal account of high-performance athletic competition and the long journey to putting that experience in perspective . . . This is a book that should be read by coaches and competitors regardless of their sport—in fact, it will be valuable for anyone who has to confront the challenge of setting goals, staying motivated and inspiring high-performance athletes to reach their highest potential." —Justin Longo


"Jason Dorland has written a deeply personal and brutally honest account of the highs and lows of growing up within a 'winning-is-everything' sport culture. His journey from athlete to Olympian to retiree to coach is intense and fascinating. This transformative story of one man's struggle to conquer his own demons in order to better the lives of those he teaches is as remarkable as it is inspiring." —Mark Tewksbury, Olympic Champion, swimming

Jason Dorland has written an insightful and significant book. As in Shakespeare, the wisdom of the book is revealed in the conversations or asides between him and Robyn Meagher. Robyn, an Olympic runner, provides Jason his awakening, teaching the world-class rower to get a grip. To pull together is, really, to pull oneself together. —Ron MacLean, Hockey Night in Canada

Chariots and Horses] is not a handbook in the art of coaching rowing, but it has many different levels about how to handle failures (yours and others), how to recognise and overcome your demons, and how to inspire and give young people a healthy approach to competing and keeping the spirit high even though they are not the first ones to cross the finish line." —Göran R. Buckhorn, Hear the Boat Sing blog


Impact Magazine


About the Author

Jason Dorland, former Olympic, Commonwealth Games and World Championship rower, coached the Shawnigan Lake School senior boys' rowing crew to four national championships and an unofficial high school world record time, becoming the first person to win the coveted Calder Cleland Memorial Trophy as an athlete and as a coach.

Jason Dorland was born and raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he attended Ridley College and began his rowing career. From there, he accepted a rowing scholarship to Syracuse University for two years before transferring to the University of Victoria and training with the Canadian National Team.

A graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in Vancouver, Jason is a designer, keynote presenter ( and author. He lives with his wife Robyn ( and family in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he is Director of Rowing at Ridley College ( He is also the co-founder, co-owner and creative director of an organic and natural food company, Left Coast Naturals (

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This book reframes athletics in a positive light Dec 14 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jason does a great job in this book of being candid about his disappointment at the Seoul Olympics and helping the reader to understand the pain that he felt. The true gifts from the book come from the lessons that Jason shares about reframing athletic pursuits to find the joy and meaning that come from the process of self-transcendence and the camaraderie of a good team.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a must read... Oct. 25 2012
This is a remarkable book - I consider Jason's story a 'must read' for all rowers, novice all the way up to elite.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More than a rowing book - a coaching manifesto Oct. 19 2011
In "Chariots and Horses", former Olympian turned rowing coach Jason Dorland tells the story of how he transformed his shattered dream of winning an Olympic gold medal, and the motivational technique of hatred of one's competitors, into a journey of self-discovery and the creation of a coaching philosophy that successfully challenged the "industry standard" metaphor of sport as a battlefield. It is a deeply personal account of high-performance athletic competition and the long journey to putting that experience in perspective.

Full disclosure: I shared a house with the author and two other rowers in the year that precedes the start of this story. I was a freshman member of the University of Victoria junior varsity crew, carrying the unwarranted label of being an up-and-coming new recruit to this Canadian rowing powerhouse (when the truth was that my first year of collegiate rowing would prove to be the end of a slightly above average rowing career). Dorland was then a truly rising star of the country's rowing elite, joining the cadre of my rowing heros, who I knew by reputation and second-hand connection through some of his highschool crewmates. In some ways, you learn more about a person sharing a house with them than you do sharing a boat. But in that year preceding the depths of this story - the national teams' devastating loss in the 1988 Seoul Olympics - my memory of this athlete centres on his focus and determination to row for his country, while none of the demons that underscored the intense competitiveness he describes in this book were frankly much in evidence in the off-water settings in which we interacted.

"Chariots and Horses" ultimately centres on Dorland's year-long process of coaching his highschool crew to the national championships.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
There were times when I was reading this book when I felt a sadly familiar knot in my stomach, a draining feeling that comes from losing - which never seems to go away. Jason pours his heart out in this book, revealing deep pain and then his long journey towards understanding what motivates athletes (and ultimately, anyone who competes in their career). Replacing the hatred, fear and shame of losing with something else is a deeply personal experience. Jason only got there by reaching despair, rebuilding his self-esteem and then teaching others that there's a different way. If you're an athlete or coach or boss who thinks that intimidation, threats or anger are effective tactics for motivation, please read this book. Jason will share his story that teaches life lessons: by focusing your competitive drive inward, towards your own goals, in your own 'race'...this is a winning strategy over the long run.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a must for coaches struggling with their coaching style Feb. 11 2014
By B. Birch - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a book for rowing coaches who need to understand the power they wield and what it does or doesn't do to their athletes,
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Personal story Aug. 13 2013
By Guillermo Spamer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is a personal story and in some points it is boring, some events are too detailed. Expected more about motivation and teamwork.
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