Athletes across the country are gearing up for top level competitions around the world, including the Olympic Games next summer in Beijing and the 2010 Winter Olympics right here in Canada. Some experts are predicting a banner couple of seasons for Canada in terms of medals. We asked 10 athletes, some seasoned competitors, others up-and-coming winners, how they manage to balance demands of training and their personal lives.
1. NAME: Marie-France Dubreuil
SPORT: Ice dancing
TRAINING LOCALE: The International Academy of Ice Dancing in Lyon, France
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Trains six days a week, 4 ½ hours Monday to Friday and 2 ½ hours on Saturdays. Also takes ballet and dance classes and does weight and core training. Takes three weeks off in June and one week off in August.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Lives with Patrice Lauzon, her partner off the ice as well as on. They have been together for 11 years.
In Senior Ice Dance category:
• Silver, 2007 and 2006 ISU World Figure Skating Championships
• Gold, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004 Canadian National Championships
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Dubreuil receives funding from Skate Canada and earns prize money from winning competitions and income from skating shows.
JUGGLING ACT: Early in her career, Dubreuil worked at a skating boutique, a convenience store and a skating rink (as a cashier and kids’ skating teacher) in addition to training. “I only got about four hours of sleep a night; I had to stop,” she says. Now the challenge is living on another continent away from her mother and sister. Dubreuil can only visit them in Montreal once or twice a year, but talks on the phone with them “all the time.”
BALANCING TIP: If your week is particularly gruelling, disconnect by doing a fun activity such as shopping or going to a movie. “My biggest obstacle to finding balance is my obsession with my work,” admits Dubreuil. “I would continue thinking about training at the end of day. I had to learn to stay present in the moment.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Next season, Dubreuil and her partner will
perform in shows and tours, and then prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
2. NAME: Blythe Hartley
TRAINING LOCALE: The Dive Calgary club in Calgary
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Trains six days a week (twice on two days) for between 2 ½ and 3 ½ hours each session. Takes the month of August off.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single.
• Silver (one-metre springboard), 2007 Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championships
• Gold (one-metre springboard), 2005 FINA World Championships
• Bronze (10-metre synchronized diving), 2004 Summer Olympics
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Hartley receives funding from Sport Canada. Additionally, Rona sponsors her and RBC Financial Group hires her for speaking engagements as part of its Olympians Program.
JUGGLING ACT: Hartley’s biggest juggling act is arranging to see her family. Her oldest brother, who is battling cancer, lives in Montreal. She took a week off last fall to spend time with him after his chemotherapy treatment, and visits whenever a competition destination is nearby. [Update: Sadly, Hartley's brother has passed away since the time of this writing.] Meanwhile, Hartley’s parents live on Vancouver Island. She makes an effort to visit them at Christmas and in the summer. She also tries to make time for friends in the evenings and on weekends – to hike, relax, have dinner or watch movies.
BALANCING TIP: Make your personal life a priority. “In past years, I just focused on diving and that hurt me,” says Hartley. “You need your friends and family. Now when I leave the pool, I leave it there.” Instead of going home to “veg,” though, “I force myself to meet a friend because it’s important.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Training and competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
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3. NAME: Hayley Wickenheiser
TRAINING LOCALE: Olympic Oval in Calgary
TRAINING SCHEDULE: From September to April, Wickenheiser trains from four to six hours a day, six days a week (typically three practices and three games per week). Off-season, she does two 3-hour training sessions a day, six days a week. These may include weight training, boxing, running, mountain biking, agility work, speed and balance training, and, starting in July, on-ice sessions.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Lives with her partner, Tomas Pacina, and is the adoptive mother of Noah, 7.
• Gold (and MVP), 2007 Women’s World Championships
• Gold (and MVP) 2006 (and 2002) Winter Olympics
• MVP, 2004 Women’s World Championships
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Wickenheiser gets sponsorship backing from General Mills, Nike Bauer, MasterCard and Merlin Ford. She supplements this with appearances and speaking engagements. (She speaks at schools for free.) She and Tomas also have a company, International Hockey Consulting, which provides services such as on- and off-ice training and public speaking, and they dabble in real estate.
JUGGLING ACT: Wickenheiser’s biggest hurdle is finding time to meet all the demands of an elite athlete – including training and requests for appearances – and still be able to spend time with Noah. The most stressful part of her job is leaving Noah and Tomas behind when she travels.
She also juggles volunteer commitments with charities including Right to Play and KidSport, which use sports as a way to empower and educate disadvantaged kids. Wickenheiser says she’s lucky to have a partner who has limited his own career as a hockey coach to make her life easier. Also, her parents take Noah on weekends if she and Tomas are both away for work, and her “wonderful” nanny steps in when needed, too.
BALANCING TIP: Focus your attention on what’s important and learn to say no to what isn’t.
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
4. NAME: Clara Hughes
SPORT: Speed skating
TRAINING LOCALE: Olympic Oval in Calgary
TRAINING SCHEDULE: In season, Hughes trains twice a day, six days a week. On a typical day, she skates about 20 kilometres, rides the trainer (a sort of indoor stationary bicycle) up to two hours or runs for up to an hour. In addition, she lifts weights twice a week and spends hours doing exercises specially designed for speed skating; for example, using a rubber cable with a belt to practise turning/crossing movements on corners.
She also does core strength workouts to improve balance and movement, and stretching exercises about 30 to 45 minutes a day four times a week. Off season, she cross trains at every opportunity; for example, this past spring and summer, she biked mountain passes in Quebec, California and Alberta.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married (six years to Peter Guzman).
• Gold (5,000 metres), 2006 Winter Olympics
• Silver (team pursuit), 2006 Winter Olympics
• Gold (5,000 metres), 2004 World Single Distances Championships
• Double bronze medals at 1996 Summer Olympics for cycling (she is only the second woman and fourth person ever to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics)
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Hughes says she’s “incredibly fortunate” to have the support of numerous sponsors, including Bell Canada, Visa, CV Technologies (makers of Cold-fX) and Adidas Eyewear. “What a gift – I have the best job in the world,” she says.
JUGGLING ACT: The biggest challenge for Hughes is her involvement in two charities that are close to her heart – Right to Play (to which she and her husband have donated $10,000 of their own money) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which raises money to protect the Sutton Mountain Range in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. She considers herself fortunate to be able see these mountains when she’s at her home in Quebec. She also fits in public speaking and mentors a handful of young athletes.
BALANCING TIP: Prioritize and know your limits. “What’s most difficult for me is saying no. I often feel that I’m letting people down. I’ve had to learn how to recognize my limits and respect these limits.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: World Single Distance Championships (5,000 metres) in Nagano, Japan, in March 2008. Then the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She hopes to defend her Olympic title in the 5,000-metre race on home soil before retiring as an Olympic athlete.
Page 2 of 5 5. NAME: Sara Renner
SPORT: Cross-Country Skiing
TRAINING LOCALE: Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alta.
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Except for a break between mid-March and mid-April, Renner trains all year round. She trains 30 hours a week with the exception of a monthly “recovery week” during which she does 12 hours of non-ski-related workouts. These workouts could include: weights, long-distance running, biking, core exercises, low-impact yoga and roller-skiing (cross-country skiing on wheels). Off-season, she’s free to choose the level and type of activity.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married to Canadian alpine skier Thomas Grandi. Mother of daughter Aria, born Feb. 1, 2007.
• Silver (sprint relay), 2006 Winter Olympics
• Bronze (sprint), 2005 World Championships, Oberstdorf, Germany
• Silver (10 K), 2006 World Cup, Davos, Switzerland
• Silver (sprint relay), 2005 World Cup, Canmore, Alta.
MEANS OF SUPPORT: As with many Canadian athletes, Renner is sponsored by Sport Canada, as well as by Cross Country Canada. She also receives support from McElhanney Land Surveys Ltd., and from public appearances and speaking engagements.
JUGGLING ACT: Renner juggles her training sessions with nursing Aria. Being a first-time mom has helped her to prioritize and has helped her juggle various demands. “Right now, I can focus on being great at two things: a mother and skier,” she says. She credits the people around her for much of her success. “I have a great support system and that’s so important.” This support system includes her coach, Dave Wood, family in Canmore and her husband’s family in Italy when she races overseas.
BALANCING TIP: Put family first. “It’s difficult to do but it’s so valuable,” she says. “I have no illusions that I’m a supermom. But if I had to choose between a family event and a career function, I would choose the family event.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Resuming a full-time training schedule just months after giving birth. “I was active during my pregnancy and although the intensity of training increases gradually, starting again is a big adjustment,” she says. And being prepared for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
6. NAME: Christine Sinclair
TRAINING LOCALE: Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Sinclair and her teammates (she’s a striker with the Canadian women’s national soccer team) train for two to six hours a day, five to six days a week, up to three weeks of every month before major competitions. Their regular regimen includes running, weight training, speed drills and practice games.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single.
• All-time top goal-scorer in Canadian women’s soccer
• Four-time winner, CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America (she played forward with the University of Portland Pilots)
• Two-time winner, Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Funded by the Canadian Soccer Association and the Canadian Olympic Committee. Sinclair is also sponsored by Nike.
JUGGLING ACT: Being a full-time soccer player is a juggling act in itself. Sinclair does find the time to occasionally offer coaching advice to younger athletes in Portland, Ore.
BALANCING TIP: Take time off from your regular schedule. For Sinclair, getting away from her training is important for maintaining a balanced life. “I need the opportunity and the time and the space to do my own thing,” she says, adding that skiing and other outdoor activities and watching soccer on TV are among her favourite pastimes. “And you need that…at least I do. I need that separation between work and my time.”
Another important balancing element for Sinclair is staying in close touch with her family. With her intense training schedule and constant demands on her time and energy, she has to make a point of nurturing her relationship with her family, who all live nearby.
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Training for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Page 3 of 5 7. NAME: Jane Rumball
SPORT: Rowing, Women’s Pairs
TRAINING LOCALE: Fanshawe Lake, near London, Ont.
TRAINING SCHEDULE: As the stroke of the Canadian national heavyweight-pairs women’s rowing team, Rumball trains every day, almost all year round. The training is in the form of two 2-hour practices – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. (Training moves indoors or to warmer locales in winter.)
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married to Adam Rumball.
• Gold (along with teammate Darcy Marquardt), women’s pairs, World Rowing Championships and Munich Rowing World Cup, 2006
• Six-time winner, Canadian University Rowing title in women’s singles
• Female Athlete of the Year, Canadian University Rowing, 2005
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Rumball receives financial assistance through Sport Canada and various other organizations. Like other members of the Canadian rowing team, she’s been “adopted” by a private patron – in her case, Dr. John Clifford of Ingersoll, Ont. – who provides a monthly stipend in exchange for motivational talks and seminars.
JUGGLING ACT: In addition to her rowing career, Rumball is a public speaker and advocate for sports who works with the athletic organizations Athletes in Action and Right to Play. She recently completed a PhD in sports medicine at the University of Western Ontario in London, and, after taking a year off from her studies to concentrate on training for next summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, will enter medical school at the University of Toronto in fall 2008.
BALANCING TIP: Remain passionate about what you do – professionally and personally. “When you find something that you’re passionate about and that is very significant to you and to your values, it does make the ability to go from one thing to the next easier,” she says.
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Training and qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
8. NAME: Kelly Scott
TRAINING LOCALE: Kelowna Curling Club in Kelowna, B.C.
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Between September and April, Scott competes in bonspiels nearly every other weekend (Thursday through Monday). The rest of the week, she practises, competes in a men’s league, meets with her personal trainer and works out. On the weekends when she’s not playing, Kelly is at the rink practising with her teammates. In the summer, Scott does three strength-training sessions each week (one with her trainer and two with her team partner). During the rest of the week, she does sport-specific training, which can include cardio, core stability and balance work.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married to Chad Scott.
• Women’s world champion, 2007
• Canadian women’s champion, 2007 and 2006
• Canadian and world junior women’s champion, 1995
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Scott’s team sponsors include Sun-Rype Products, Wolseley Waterworks Group and JVC Canada. The team also receives funding from Sport Canada, which helps to cover travelling costs and allows for greater flexibility. “We can make choices that are best for the team and best for our performance based on the help that they give us,” says Scott.
JUGGLING ACT: On top of the training, travelling and competing, Scott works full time as the financial officer for her family’s business, Nutri-Lawn Ecology Friendly Lawn Care. Instead of having the day to train and rest up for a competition, she’ll spend her lunch hour at the curling rink and rush home at the end of the day to pack for a weekend away. “Quite often we go to competitions tired; it’s just racing around a lot, having to prioritize things as opposed to being able to fit in the full training package that some athletes in other sports are able to do on a daily basis.”
BALANCING TIP: Be as organized as possible. Scott and her team plan during the summer, mapping out a timetable for the next season that everyone feels is manageable and doing their best not to schedule back-to-back weekends away. Leaving her old job with the City of Kelowna to work in her family business has given Scott a better work-life balance. “I kind of have the full package now, where I feel like I can manage it all – the work, the curling and being home with my family. I feel very settled right now.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Defending her national title in February 2008 in Regina and her world title one month later in nearby Vernon, B.C.; qualifying to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Page 4 of 5 9. NAME: Jeane Lassen
TRAINING LOCALE: Better Bodies Gym in Whitehorse
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Lassen trains six days a week – there is no “off season” in weightlifting. Her three to seven hours of daily training are divided into morning and evening sessions that encompass different components of competition lifts, such as pulls and squats, interval training, and complementary exercises (chin-ups and core) to help avoid injury. She starts and finishes these sessions with warm-up and cool-down activities such as dynamic and static stretching.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single.
• Nine Canadian records
• Silver and bronze, 2006 Senior World Championships
• Gold (and Games record holder), 2006 Commonwealth Games
• Bronze, 1999 Pan American Games
• Silver (three), 1997 and 1998 Junior World Championships
• 15 medals at World University Championships
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Funded by Government of Canada Athlete Assistance Program, Podium Canada and provincial assistance programs. Sponsors include: Golden Hill Ventures Ltd., Main Steele Development and B2Ten.
JUGGLING ACT: Getting enough rest and truly giving the mind and body a break between training sessions.
BALANCING TIP: Accept that hard work does not always pay off, but it is the only way to succeed.
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: World Championships/Main Olympic Qualifier in September in Thailand.
10. NAME: Lorie Kane
TRAINING LOCALE: Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fla.
TRAINING SCHEDULE: On average, Kane trains six to 10 hours a day, all year round.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single.
• Four victories on the Ladies Professional Golf Association
• Recipient of the Order of Canada in 2006 in recognition of her work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Ronald McDonald House Charities and the KidSport program. “I’m always extremely proud to represent Canada and my home province of Prince Edward Island wherever I go,” says Kane. “It was a dream come true to be awarded with that great honour.”
MEANS OF SUPPORT: Kane’s corporate sponsors include CN and Deloitte.
JUGGLING ACT: Being a world-class athlete means that Kane always has a lot of balls in the air: tours, media events, fan commitments, training, family, friends and charitable work. “All of these things play an important role in my career, but it’s important that I’m able to keep my eye on achieving success on the golf course,” she says. “When I’m playing well, and winning, all of those other components benefit.” Her family and friends help keep her grounded. “It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important if all I’m doing is playing golf. Everything else gives me great perspective, and I appreciate that.”
BALANCING TIP: Don’t take for granted the opportunities that are given to you. In Kane’s case, her golf career has allowed her to travel the world over and meet incredible people. “I tell young people to always make time and effort for the important things in life like family and friends.”
NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Kane plays about 30 LPGA events around the world each year, and she says that every one of them is a challenge. “One of the exciting things about my career is that the next big challenge is always just around the corner,” she says. “Each week, my challenge is to go out on tour and win my next tournament.”
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