FENCER WON’T BE FOILED IN 2016 OLYMPIC QUEST
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.
MAXIME BRINCK-CROTEAU, GATINEAU, FENCING, MEN’S EPEE, AUG. 9
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.
MELANIE McCANN, OTTAWA, MODERN PENTATHLON, AUG. 18-20
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 email@example.com.
Eleanor Harvey will make her Summer Olympics debut in women’s foil fencing during the Games in Rio de Janeiro.