Zach Morgan had already chosen a training facility in Ottawa, he'd already found a place to live. It was more or less certain that he and long-time race partner Keiffer Johnson would be leaving Kamloops, continuing their training as canoe sprint racers away from home.
But then Stanislav Marek came into the picture.
"Before Stan came we had a place lined up to go out East, we had rooms . . . all that lined up," Morgan said Thursday. "We were like 'OK, we'll just give this Stan guy a shot before we head out East.' It turned out really well. Stan's a really good coach.
"He's made a huge difference in my training."
Marek's arrival as head coach of the Kamloops Canoe and Kayak Club allowed Morgan, 17, to continue to live with his family, here in Kamloops, avoiding the transition that would have come with a new city, a new high school and a new living situation.
And since Marek has taken over coaching, Morgan says he's turned a corner. His 2013 season has been one of the most successful of his career, winning gold in the C1 1,000 metres and silver in the C1 200m at the Canadian Sprint Canoe/Kayak Championship in Montreal in August.
"With any other coach you don't see the progress, but with him - he'd make us do time controls and you'd see time coming off, five seconds here, 10 seconds there," Morgan said. "Over the course of the year my 2K time improved almost a minute, in the three months he was there."
Success at nationals led to an invite to the Olympic Hopefuls Regatta in Racice, Czech Republic, for Morgan, where he finished fifth in the 1,000m, sixth in the 500m and seventh in the 200m.
"It was amazing being able to compete for Canada and race for Canada," he said. "I was super honoured to be selected to race for my country and represent Canada. It was great to be around all those awesome athletes from all over Canada and hang out with them and race with them."
Following his race in the Czech Republic, Morgan also competed in the 2013 International Canoe Federation Canoe Marathon World Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he finished 14th, with Johnson right on his tail in 15th. That was last weekend, and Morgan just returned home Monday.
Morgan said he has learned a lot from all the athletes he's competed with or against this summer, but especially the European ones. He was impressed with how fast they were, even those competing in the 17.2-kilometre canoe marathon, and came back to Canada motivated to get faster and stronger.
A lot of his success he attributes to his new coach, who he says has brought in a better, smarter training regimen, but he's also taken it upon himself to give it that little bit extra this year.
"This year I definitely stepped up my training," he said. "I've come pretty close to winning a few races, but I hadn't quite got there yet. This year I really wanted to get that gold so I stepped up my training a lot and I was training two or three times a day, every day, except for Sunday. I stepped it up and worked really hard and there you go, it paid off."
His success wasn't limited to the C1 events this year either; he and Johnson, his racing partner of 10 years, won a bronze medal at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., and an unexpected gold medal at nationals in the C2 under-19 1,000m. Johnson, 18, is at the bottom of that age group and Morgan moved up an age group to compete with him, but their youth didn't seem to matter.
"My strengths and Keiffer's strengths kind of play on each other's weaknesses," Morgan said. "I may not have the power, he's got the power, that's one of his strengths. He may not have the endurance, I've got the endurance, so we complement each other nicely in the boat."
Morgan's 2013 season has wrapped up, but in just three weeks he'll start to ramp up his training for 2014. He will start competing again in the spring, with his eyes set on a few more medals and, one day, the opportunity to attend the Olympics.
"I'd say 2020 would be the one I'm aiming for," he said, explaining canoers generally hit their prime in their mid-20s. "I'm going to try for 2016, but I don't know if that's in the cards yet. But it's worth a shot."