Karyn Jewell is one of many young Canadian athletes who will get the chance to compete at the Pan Am Games. Photo: Dan Plouffe
By Dan Plouffe
Several Ottawa teenagers will be competing in one of the world’s biggest sporting events Oct. 13-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico as Canada sends young athletes in many sports to compete in the Pan American Games.
It’s an event that doesn’t receive much international attention outside of the country where it’s taking place, so it’s rather natural that someone like 17-year-old Karyn Jewell wouldn’t originally know exactly what she’d qualified for.
“Honestly, I didn’t know much about it,” admits the young swimmer who got her G1 driver’s licence not too long ago. “My coach has a Pan Am bag from Winnipeg and I knew it was a pretty big thing with lots of other sports, but I googled it.”
Michel Bérubé, Jewell’s coach with her club at the Gatineau multi-sports complex – which she busses to every day once class is finished at St. Peter Catholic High School in Orleans – does know what the Pan Ams are all about.
“The Pan Am Games is really a mini-Olympic Games,” notes Bérubé, who coached at the 1999 Games in Winnipeg and is the swimming team leader for 2011. “That experience, when you’re 16 or 17, is a big thing. I think she’ll come back pumped, no matter what the outcome is.”
Dealing with all the variables related to travel, security, transportation, accreditation, food and lodging at a major international multi-sport Games can help an athlete become stronger mentally, Bérubé adds. But despite the value that comes from the Pan Ams, most of Canada’s top international swimmers declined to attend this year’s Games, which take place about two months later than usual.
“Some coaches fear that it’s going to get in the way of the preparation for the Olympic Games, and the Olympic trials. I don’t see it like that,” explains Bérubé, who gave his athlete three weeks off in the summer and will now use the Pan Am Games as a blast off point to begin the season that includes the London 2012 Olympic trials.
That’s the same theory followed by the world record holder in two of the races Jewell will compete in – the 200-metre individual medley and the 400 IM.
“It’s pretty intimidating,” remarks Jewell, who qualified for the Games thanks to her summer senior nationals victory in the 400 IM. “I saw that she was on the U.S. roster and it was very nerve-wracking. I want to learn how to race against those kinds of people and not get so nervous.”
In similar shoes as Jewell is Kellie Ring, an 18-year-old Louis-Riel high school grad. With many top players unable to get released from their U.S. or European professional teams, it opened the door for some younger athletes to take the court for Canada at the Pan Am Games.
While the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees basketball rookie will miss a team trip to PEI while in Guadalajara, she couldn’t turn down going to the Canadian Olympic Committee-organized event.
“I feel a little bit guilty having to leave the team, but I feel like everybody will understand that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Pan Am Games,” Ring says. “I think it’s going to be an absolutely wonderful experience, and I’m just excited every day to go.”
Ring, who’s also represented Canada numerous times on youth-level teams, is very appreciative of the type of chances she’s had, especially at a young age.
“Not a lot of people get this opportunity, so I feel extremely honoured to have been recognized,” notes Ring, whose team will receive some veteran leadership from Ottawa native Kadie Riverin, a member of Canada’s FIBA Americas world championship qualifier team that won bronze in Columbia on Oct. 1. “I’m excited to play with her as well. She’s on the senior national team, so just to have that opportunity to play with and against players of that level is something every player wants to do.”
With veterans such as Christine Sinclair and Diane Matheson in its lineup, Canada is most definitely not sending a developmental squad for the women’s soccer competition, but 18-year-old Ottawa goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands managed to crack the Canadian roster for Guadalajara nonetheless.
Other Ottawa athletes nominated to the Canadian team prior to its official unveiling Oct. 4 included Michael Robertson (athletics), Sultana Frizell (athletics), Chris Bisson (baseball), Kristin Gauthier (canoe-kayak), Nicolas Tritton (judo), Christina Julien (soccer), Mo Zhang (table tennis), Pradeeban Peter-Paul (table tennis) and Ashton Baumann (swimming).