Welland SUP athlete standing up for Canada
Maddie LeBlanc heading to China with national team
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.
Stand-up paddle board athlete Maddi LeBlanc.