Skiing Universities

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Carleton Ravens sweep three titles at inaugural university nordic ski team pushup competition

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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

Carleton Ravens 2018 women’s nordic ski team. File photo

By Martin Cleary

And now for something completely different. And why not. This whole year has been something completely different. How about a pushup competition?

The first, and maybe annual, Canadian University Nordic Ski Team Pushup Competition played out Nov. 14-22 for 252 athletes, alumni and coaches from 13 schools in four provinces.

Each university team recruited as many players as possible to do as many pushups as he or she can in one minute. The final men’s, women’s, overall rankings were based on a team’s top 6 scores.

Having a pushup competition allowed participants to do an activity on their own and still feel part of a team at a time when some teams cannot have their athletes train together and race schedules are tentative.

Teams certainly took it seriously. The 139 men, 113 women combined for 9,394 pushups. Looking like the Carleton University men’s basketball dynasty, the Ravens swept all 3 titles and 2 participation rankings.

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The pushup challenge served not only as a training tool for a potential cross-country ski season, but also as a way to provide in-house and cross-border competition.

Carleton’s top 6 pushup performers gave Ravens the women’s and men’s titles and subsequently the overall championship. A competition-leading 37 participants produced an unmatched 1,504 pushups.

Ravens put down 244 pushups in the tight women’s competition, while the University of British Columbia was second (240) and the University of Waterloo took third (239).

Carleton men pushed aside their competition with 397 pushups, while the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees finished second (379) and the University of Waterloo Warriors were third (362).

Sheila Kealey, the Gee-Gees’ nordic coach and a prominent Ottawa cross-country racer, created the competition for athlete motivation, team goal setting and a positive experience versus COVID-19.

“We could have done this within our team, but going beyond our team makes it a lot more exciting. It seemed like a good way to promote university nordic skiing,” she wrote in an e-mail interview.

“Allowing alumni and coaches to compete was another twist and I think generated greater involvement and more excitement,” she added. “No young athlete wants to be beat by alumni.”

Since it was a virtual competition, participants did pushups on their own, took videos and posted to Instagram. One on-line Gee-Gees’ student did his pushups at home in New Brunswick.

The Gee-Gees did a pushup test in September as part of their upper-body strength training program. Motivated to improve in the competition, Gee-Gees’ skiers bettered their numbers dramatically.

Entering only its 3rd year as a nordic ski program, the Gee-Gees also had a team in the 1980s. Former World Cup biathlete Lise Meloche, 60, contributed her 60 seconds worth of pushups.

Carleton nordic ski team captain Emma Holmes recruited 37 pushup participants with the help of keen alumni members. Waterloo had 35 players and the Gee-Gees 34.

“I’m pleased that we won, but more so I’m excited by how many team members, past and present, competed and how much fun everyone seemed to have,” she wrote in an e-mail interview.

“We’re a strong team with a lot of really enthusiastic members. It also helped that we had a super deep field, almost half our participants were alumni and we had 3 former coaches participate.

“Everyone did their pushups separately, filmed themselves and sent them to me to be tallied. Hopefully, we can do this again in the future and make more of an event out of it.,” she added.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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