HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
For the second straight year, slalom kayaker Maël Rivard and his Ottawa River Runners coach Michal Staniszewski have been recognized by Petro-Canada’s Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence program.
Both Rivard, 20, and Staniszewski, who has coached the River Runners for two decades, will receive $5,000 grants to assist with training, equipment, coach education and travel to competitions.
“I was surprised. It came out of nowhere,” Rivard said in a telephone interview. “This pays for my season – most of my racing is in Europe – coaching fees, travel and accommodations.”
Petro-Canada presented grants to 55 up-and-coming athletes, who are striving to represent Canada at the Olympic or Paralympic Games, but haven’t qualified for federal government funding.
The athletes were nominated by their national sport organizations and were reviewed by a committee of representatives from Petro-Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, and Coaching Association of Canada.
FACE grants also were awarded to Tokyo Paralympian Brianna Hennessy, an Ottawa River Canoe Club para sprint kayaker and her coach Joel Hazzan, and mountain biker Jérémie La Grenade of Gatineau and his coach Jeffrey Ain.
Rivard, who was introduced to slalom kayaking about 11 years ago at a summer camp in Ottawa, is grateful for his FACE grants.
“It’s definitely a privilege. In any sport it makes a huge difference. I will make the most of it,” said Rivard, a national U23 team member who knows that without the grants it would be harder to train and race internationally.
After 17 months of limited training and no competitions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivard returned to racing this season with mixed results.
Rivard placed 45th in a World Cup meet in Markkleeberg, Germany, in June, and was 41st at his first U23 world championships in Ljubljana-Tacen, Slovenia, in July.
“My season hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped for. I didn’t have great performances in my first two races,” he added. “But in the second part of my season, I hope to catch up.
“At the World Cup, I had two solid runs, but I wasn’t on pace for a good ranking. At the U23 world championships, it was not great, partly nerves and partly bad luck. I wasn’t happy.”
In the second half of his season, Rivard will compete in two more World Cup competitions as well as the world senior championships.
Despite the pandemic, he was fortunate to be able to train outdoors at the Pumphouse at Lebreton Flats. But it was harder to compliment that with proper physical strength training because the gyms were closed so often.
“We managed it well, but it wasn’t what we had hoped for to prepare for a season,” Rivard said. “But it was good considering the constraints.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.