Wel­land SUP ath­lete stand­ing up for Canada

Mad­die LeBlanc head­ing to China with na­tional team

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - KRIS DUBÉ kris.dube@ni­a­garadailies.com 905-225-1652 | @kristo­pher­dube

Rep­re­sent­ing her coun­try at an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion will be “like a dream,” says Maddi LeBlanc, a stand-up pad­dle board ath­lete from Wel­land.

The 21-year-old is one of six mem­bers of Team Canada who will be head­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Surf As­so­ci­a­tion (ISA) World SUP Pad­dle­board Cham­pi­onships in China Nov. 23 to Dec. 2.

In May, a trial com­pe­ti­tion was held in Vic­to­ria, B.C., for team coaches to se­lect the ros­ter. Due to school and other life com­mit­ments, LeBlanc was un­able to make the trip and told her­self that she could al­ways look for­ward to po­ten­tially land­ing a spot on the squad in 2019.

But just a cou­ple of months ago, a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity re­opened when she was con­tacted by a mem­ber of the team who ex­plained there was a va­cancy for an end-of-year tour­na­ment — lead­ing to a de­ci­sion that she couldn’t pass on the of­fer.

Com­pet­i­tive in the sport for the past three years, this will eas­ily be the fiercest field of ath­letes she has faced in her ca­reer.

“This is like the Olympics of SUP. Ev­ery­body from around the world is go­ing to be there.

“You’re pretty much com­pet­ing against the best of the best.”

One of the big­gest feats LeBlanc will face in China is rac­ing on an open ocean.

“It’s go­ing to be a brand-new ex­pe­ri­ence for me,” said the young woman fa­mil­iar with calm of the recre­ational canal in Wel­land and other bod­ies of wa­ter in Ni­a­gara.

LeBlanc will com­pete in two events — dis­tance and tech­ni­cal.

In the dis­tance cat­e­gory, she will pad­dle up to 20 kilo­me­tres to the fin­ish, also some­thing she hasn’t done be­fore.

“Con­sec­u­tively, I have not pad­dled that far,” she said.

A fifth-year en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources stu­dent at Uni­ver­sity of Water­loo, LeBlanc said she is elated to be com­pet­ing on be­half of Canada.

“It just feels like all my hard work is pay­ing off.”

LeBlanc has seen her sport of choice grow sig­nif­i­cantly in Ni­a­gara but said its pop­u­lar­ity ap­pears to be ex­pand­ing the great­est in the U.S.

In China, she’s not re­ally sure. “I’m ex­cited to find out,” she said.

The ISA is rec­og­nized by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee.

SPE­CIAL TO THE WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

Stand-up pad­dle board ath­lete Maddi LeBlanc.

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