Elite Amateur Sport Modern Pentathlon

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Retired Olympic pentathlete shoots for business degree with help from COC scholarship

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Melanie McCann of Canada competes in the horse jumping portion of the Women’s Modern Pentathlon at the CIBC Aquatic Centre/Field House during the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in Canada. Photo: Steve Kingsman

By Martin Cleary

When it comes to multi-tasking, Melanie McCann, a former Ottawa athlete and two-time modern pentathlon Olympian, should be standing front-and-centre in the gold-medal line.

Whether she was training for her five sports – swimming, fencing, show jumping, running and shooting – or earning academic honours, McCann was the master of her multiple labours.

And even in athletic retirement, McCann continues to amaze as a juggler. A consultant with the DeloitteUK infrastructure and capital projects team, the 31-year-old is pursuing her third academic certificate, an MBA.

McCann recently earned a Game Plan scholarship through the Canadian Olympic Committee to enrol in Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business. She has registered for the Accelerated MBA course.

In her formal application, she mentioned her BA of Business Administration and Civil Engineering Technical Diploma, both from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, work experience, athletic honours and future goals.

“I was so excited and grateful to have been awarded the Game Plan scholarship to the Smith School of Business,” McCann wrote in an email interview. “It is a tremendous opportunity that highlighted not only my transferable skills and unique experience from the field of play, but (also) my professional pursuits in the world of business.”

McCann has learned from her days as a multi-sport, high-performance athlete about how to do things right and on time, and has carried those skills forward into her busy professional life.


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“The structure of the program is perfect for me as I will continue to work full time, while studying in the intensive team-based AMBA classes,” added the 11th- and 16th-place finisher at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. “As a jack-of-all-trades in modern pentathlon, I am no stranger to juggling competing priorities. The course is an intensive one year of study done alongside my full-time career at DeloitteUK.”

McCann will complete the majority of her AMBA course load on evenings, weekends and in MBA “boot camps” throughout the year.

During a 13-year national team career, McCann pursued her education, when training allowed.

“I always enjoyed having the academic outlet and slowly but consistently added building blocks to my post-athletic endeavours,” noted McCann, who was based in Ottawa with coach John Hawes for most of her career.

McCann placed 4th and 5th at the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games. She attended seven world senior world championships with a best result of 17th in 2014.

McCann earned 3 top-10 World Cup results (5th in 2014, 7th in 2016, 9th in 2012) and two top-10s in the World Cup Final (7th in 2012, 10th in 2015). At the Pan American championships, she won silver (2014) and bronze (2013) medals.

Today, McCann enjoys coaching the next generation of modern pentathletes and speaking about her athletic experiences even as she charges into her future as a young businesswoman.

“As the world is inevitably changing in all facets from the way we live, communicate, train and do business, the only constant is the need to be adaptable,” she continued. “Earning my MBA at Smith will give me the tools to further develop my leadership skills in the business world and I hope to leverage that to be innovative as I continue to grow through the next chapter of my life.”

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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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