Canada’s top 10 female athletes

We salute 10 of our own best female athletes. Find out who to watch in the 2008 and 2010 Olympic Games. By Natalie Bahadur, Wendy Graves, Miriam Osborne, Vickie Reichardt, Sarah Jane Silva, Sarah Snowdon, Gilda Swartz and Deena Waisberg

Ice dancing and diving
This story was originally titled "A perfect 10" in the October 2007 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

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
AGE: 33

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.

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.”

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
SPORT: Diving
AGE: 25

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.



• 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.

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.”

Training and competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

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