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Rebelles Wrap: School support while away for sport helps fuel top skier

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Louis-Riel Rebelles

Thomas McKinlay

As an elite skier, Thomas McKinlay got used to remote learning long before it became the norm for many students.

The Grade 11 Louis-Riel high school student first strapped on skis as a 3-year-old, and since age 8, he’s been involved in the competitive side of the sport – like his father was.

Skiing out of Mont-Tremblant, the Blackburn Hamlet resident became one of the top skiers in Quebec youth ranks and is now a member of the Laurentian division’s Under-18/U21 program.

McKinlay loves the thrill of going fast and the adrenaline rush he feels from the descent. The 16-year-old also enjoys the ski lifestyle and getting to travel different places for his sport – he’s already been to many regions in Quebec and Ontario, out west to B.C., to the U.S., and Chile.

But the demands of pursuing skiing at a high-performance level often don’t match well with the traditional school setup. It’s not a sport that can be done only before/after regular school hours, and training camps or competitions take skiers on the road for many days or weeks at a time.

McKinlay’s ski training always seemed like a nuisance to his scholastic pursuits, until he entered Louis-Riel’s Sports-Study program.

“Louis-Riel was really one of the only schools that was willing to get behind my skiing, and were comfortable with me missing a lot of school for training,” indicates McKinlay, a 2020 National Capital champion for the Rebelles.

“I never had conflicts about missing school or tests, I never got bad marks, and I was able keep up with all my classes online thanks to my teachers’ support,” he adds. “It really allowed me to focus on skiing when I’m away skiing, and to be less stressed about school.”

McKinlay appreciates the excellent organization of the Sports-Study program, which has been fuelling high-performing athletes since its inception in 2005.

The ski program includes transportation to nearby hills for daytime training in winter, and makes accommodations for athletes to be away from school with their community teams.

It also includes physical training during school hours when they’re not on snow, for which students receive a physical education credit.

McKinlay, who was ranked 3rd on the Quebec U16 circuit before the pandemic struck, tips his cap to the top-notch facilities at the Dome LR, and the work of Louis-Riel’s strength coach Jean-Robert Léger.

“That allowed me to build my body to be stronger for my sport while I was at school,” signals McKinlay, whose future goals include making the Quebec provincial team, skiing while studying in university, and hopefully one day getting to wear Team Canada colours.

“I’ve loved Sports-Études,” he adds. “I don’t think I would have been able to do what I’ve done without the program. It sure would have been a lot more difficult at another school.”

Learn more about the Louis-Riel Ski Program in this brochure and other available Sports-Study streams at:

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