Rowing Australia was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Australian Rowing Team member, Leisa Wilson (nee Paterson). Victorian-born Leisa passed away after a long illness on Friday 17 February 2017.
Born on 27 January, 1958, Leisa was an extremely active member of Corio Bay Rowing Club, she competed to begin with under the Ladies arm of the club when it was founded in 1973, and then continued to compete at multiple State and National Championships in her rowing career.
Leisa was selected to Australia for the first time in 1978, after a remarkable appearance at the 1978 National Championships. Weighing just 55kgs and standing 165cm tall, she won the Open Women’s Single Scull, the Lightweight Women’s Single Scull and stroked the Open Quad Scull to victory while representing her club, Corio Bay Women’s Rowing Club. At the 1978 World Rowing Championships, she was selected to compete in the Women’s Coxed Quadruple Sculls, making her McVilly-Pearce Rower Number 269.
Having retired from the sport in the early 1980s, to focus on triathlons and her two young children, she made a return to the sport in 1990 to help out some scullers from her club, as was her way.
In 1990, a small group of Corio Bay rowers decided to make an attempt to gain selection at open trials held for the final positions in the Australian rowing team for the Lake Barrington World Championships. One of the group dropped out, Leisa heard of this, and offered to fill the vacant place so that the crew could continue on to the trials. At this stage Leisa had not rowed competitively for nine years, and was a full-time mother of two young children, Heidi and James.
While not making the national team in 1990, Leisa got the bug for rowing back and after the 1991 National Selection trials, the newspaper headlines were: “Leisa’s back …. and how”, and “Rowing mother takes on the World”.
In her first full season back after a nine-year layoff, Leisa had finished second in the Australian lightweight sculling championship, and won the lightweight double scull championship.
On 12th May 1991 The Age reported: “Leisa Wilson capped a remarkable comeback to top level rowing when she and Sue Herold were announced as Australia’s women’s lightweight double scull for the world rowing championships in Vienna”.
She was 33 years old. Leisa timetabled her training sessions for 5.30 AM while the children were still asleep, and her gym training late at night after they had gone to bed and she had completed her other tasks for the day. And trained weekends in the double scull.
A few years after the Vienna World Championships, Leisa began to think about a new involvement in rowing. She coached extensively with Sacred Heart College, Geelong, her old school, having great success with her crews at many National Championships.
Leisa will be remembered as being always positive and full of energy, loved a chat, her sewing, the garden, rowing, and most of all her family.
Leisa received her McVilly-Pearce pin at the 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta watched on by her family and many former team-mates. Leisa is survived by her husband Stuart (Rower Number 353), son James (Rower Number 793) and daughter Heidi.
Leisa’s funeral will be this Thursday in Geelong, Victoria.
With thanks to Andrew Guerin, Andrew Cassidy and Lyall McCarthy for contributing content.