Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - MARTIN CLEARY

The Cana­dian Fenc­ing Fed­er­a­tion bud­get for its women’s foil team is a re­al­is­tic, but mea­gre, $45,000. Com­pared to the power na­tions, it’s pocket change.

“We (have) one-10th of the bud­get of the top-seven na­tions,” said na­tional women’s foil team head coach Paul ApSi­mon of Ot­tawa, adding the top Rus­sian coach is paid $1 mil­lion a year.

So how is it Canada has a fe­male foil fencer per­form­ing above and be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions and chal­leng­ing for a medal in her Olympic de­but in Rio this Au­gust?

How is it the four-mem­ber women’s foil team is go­ing to the Games, when that event is not on the Olympic piste?

How is it the Cana­dian women’s foil team is rat­tling its swords now, when this wasn’t pro­jected un­til the lead-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?

Well, there are three rea­sons, all work­ing in har­mony: the hard work of Rio Olympic-des­tined fighter Eleanor Har­vey, who is based out of Hamil­ton and Ot­tawa, and her team­mates Kelleigh Ryan of Ot­tawa, Alanna Goldie of Cal­gary and Shan­non Comer­ford of Saska­toon; the all-around guid­ance of ApSi­mon, who will coach fenc­ing and mod­ern pen­tathlon at his third Olympics; and the fi­nan­cial bless­ing of an un­der­stand­ing, sympathetic and gen­er­ous spon­sor.

In a nut­shell, the seven-yearold, mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar Finger Food Stu­dios of Port Co­quit­lam, B.C., and the na­tional women’s foil team have be­come a Cana­dian am­a­teur sport suc­cess story. While Finger Food “de­sign, de­velop, de­liver and de­ploy world-class next-gen prod­ucts,” CEO Ryan Peter­son has used this phi­los­o­phy and his phi­lan­thropy to help de­velop a spe­cific seg­ment of ath­letes.

Peter­son knows all about the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of a Cana­dian fencer bat­tling to qual­ify for the Olympics. His wife, Mon­ica, who is now the na­tional fed­er­a­tion’s high-per­for­mance co-or­di­na­tor, was in the mix for the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, but it oc­curred at the same time Ryan was bat­tling can­cer.

When she didn’t make the team, Ryan felt partly re­spon­si­ble and vowed to step for­ward for fu­ture teams. Through a com­bi­na­tion of Mon­ica’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and Finger Food spon­sor­ship, she made the 2012 Olympics.

Har­vey, who re­cently won her third na­tional foil ti­tle in four years, has fol­lowed a sim­i­lar, grind­ing and pro­duc­tive path this year to make the Olympic team with the as­sis­tance of Finger Food.

And true to his word, Ryan Peter­son said if one of Canada’s fe­male fencers made the Olympic team, the en­tire team would go to Rio.

Har­vey, 21, who en­ters her se­nior year at Ohio State Univer­sity as the de­fend­ing NCAA women’s foil cham­pion, is ranked 24th in the world for this sea­son, but is 16th on the re­stricted 32-fencer Olympic qual­i­fy­ing list. When it comes to her Olympic de­but, she has no ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I find hav­ing ex­pec­ta­tions doesn’t help any­thing,” she said firmly.

“I want to fence the best I can ... and not give up.


De­spite an in­fected plan­tar wart on his foot, Brinck-Croteau showed a lot of grit to win the sil­ver medal at the Pan Am cham­pi­onships in San­ti­ago, Chile. He was ranked a per­sonal-best 36th in epee for the 2015-16 sea­son, which was eight po­si­tions higher than the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

In 2011, he moved to Bei­jing to train and coach full-time at the Vango Fenc­ing Club, which paid for his train­ing and travel. He also as­sisted in es­tab­lish­ing six new Vango sites through­out China. When Vango built a fenc­ing venue in Markham, Ont., he re­turned to Canada in 2015 to coach and train at the cen­tre.

“Right now, I am fo­cused 100 per cent on my prepa­ra­tion to be able to rep­re­sent Canada with the best I can be,” said Brinck­Croteau, 30.


Fenc­ing also will be on Me­lanie McCann’s mind at the Olympics, but it is only one of her five sports in mod­ern pen­tathlon. While she is quite adept on the piste and picks up many points, she also must con­cen­trate on excelling in swim­ming, eques­trian show jump­ing and the fi­nale, laser-pis­tol shoot­ing and run­ning over 3,200 me­tres.

“I’d love to im­prove on my fin­ish in Lon­don,” said McCann, 26, who was 11th at the 2012 Sum­mer Games. Martin Cleary’s High Achiev­ers col­umn ap­pears bi-weekly on Wed­nes­days If you know an ath­lete, coach, team or builder you con­sider a high achiever, con­tact Martin at mar­t­in­cleary51@gmail.com.


Eleanor Har­vey will make her Sum­mer Olympics de­but in women’s foil fenc­ing dur­ing the Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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