HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
As a high-performance athlete for Canada in the 1990s and 2000s, Heather Ross-McManus directed her energy, athletic skills and creativity into the gymnastics discipline of trampoline.
The Mississippi Mills, ON., resident had a successful career, placing sixth at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and competing in seven world championships, recording a pair of fifth-place finishes in 2001 and 2003.
Along with her husband Sean McManus, they have been the backbone of the 30-year-old, Ottawa-based Spring Action Trampoline Centre, which was forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for slightly more than a decade, Ross-McManus also has been connected to the freestyle skiing community. She coached skiers and coaches about how to use trampoline training as a tool for freestyle. An international judge in trampoline, she has become a judge in freestyle. And for just over a year, she has been the Ontario Freestyle High-Performance Director.
So where do you think her three sons are directing their energy, athletic skills and creatively? Trampoline? Freestyle?
In the winter, Quin, Darren and Gavin McManus are focused on freestyle skiing with Fortune Freestyle and making their way along the pathway that could take them to the national team and international competitions.
Quin, 15, has been named to the Ontario Team for slopestyle (park and pipe), while Darren, 13, is a member of the Ontario Development Squad in moguls.
While all three are familiar with the benefits of trampoline, only Gavin, 14, has accepted it as another sport and recently was awarded national level 5 status. In freestyle, Gavin is on the Fortune Freestyle competitive team and competes in slopestyle.
By having five club athletes on the Ontario Team and four skiers on the Ontario Development Squad as well as coaches who are trained, or in the process of training, to be a Competition Development Coach, Fortune Freestyle has been awarded High-Performance status by Ontario Freestyle.
Fortune Freestyle also met two other strict criteria for the High-Performance designation – a suitable training environment and a high-performance athlete support strategy.
Ontario Freestyle gave nine Fortune Freestyle skiers provincial status for the 2021-22 season. The Ontario Team includes Aaron Turnau, moguls; and Jacob Durepos, Matthew Lepine, Maxwell Moore and Quin McManus, all slopestyle (park and pipe). The Ontario Development Squad includes Gerry Tomalty and Darren McManus, both moguls; and Jacob Harley and Kaia Rebane, both slopestyle (park and pipe).
Colin Ingram is the Fortune Freestyle head coach and the high-performance moguls coach. The club also has two moguls and three slopestyle coaches training to be Competition Development Coaches.
A team effort over several years by the athletes, coaches, volunteer board of directors and Freestyle Ontario allowed Fortune Freestyle to earn its High-Performance status.
“As a club, we knew we had a number of athletes who were nearing the Ontario HP level,” Ingram wrote in an email interview.
“We wanted to be able to provide those athletes with the opportunity to continue to train with Fortune Freestyle upon selection to the Ontario HP programs, and we therefore identified and supported coaches who were training to be Competitive Development Coaches.”
One of the main benefits of being granted High-Performance status is the nine provincial-level skiers can practise and develop their skills at their home base.
Camp Fortune, which opens its alpine ski season Friday with one lift and two runs of man-made snow, is the home for Fortune Freestyle. Skiers can train and compete slopestyle on the Pineault and Allen’s Alley runs. For moguls, the skiers use the Clifford and/or MacDonald runs.
“This means those athletes do not have to join another club and perhaps conduct their training at another ski area or in another region at greater expense,” Ingram added.
“Having higher level athletes training with the club means we are now providing more training, including more advanced training, which benefits the next generation of freestyle competitors with our club. We hope the presence of HP athletes at our club will lead and inspire younger, aspiring freestyle skiers, and hopefully assist us as we try to grow our recreational and competitive programs.”
One of the largest freestyle clubs in Ontario, Fortune Freestyle provides year-round support for the development of its athletes with trampoline, strength and conditioning, dryland, water ramp and airbag training.
Fortune Freestyle also has another former Canadian high-performance athlete on its team. Sharon Donnelly, who competed for Canada in the first women’s Olympic triathlon at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and won the 1999 Pan Am Games gold medal, sits on the board of directors as the registrar.
She joined Fortune Freestyle after her son Evan Rudniki asked her to become part of the program.
“I knew nothing about the sport,” Donnelly said in a phone interview. “But it’s really cool. I enjoy the group and the dynamics. It’s learning something new.
“Sport is sport and a lot of the same philosophies and methodologies apply.”
Fortune Freestyle plans to stage a slopestyle competition on the 2022 Timber Tour at Camp Fortune Feb. 4-6. The Fortune Freestyle skiers are alternating early-season on-snow training between Camp Fortune and the Maximise training centre in Ste-Agathe, Que.
SQUASH TEAM BRONZE FOR IMAN SHAHEEN AT JR PAN AMS
Canada won only one medal in squash at the Junior (U23) Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia and Ottawa’s Iman Shaheen shared in the podium ceremony.
The national women’s team of Hannah Blatt of Winnipeg, Sydney Maxwell of Toronto and Shaheen earned the bronze medal in the women’s team event, after losing its semifinal 2-1 to Mexico.
Shaheen won her team semifinal match 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 over Paola Michelle Franco Palacios.
Fellow Ottawa Junior Pan Am Games athlete Megan Rochette will compete in karate starting on Dec. 4.
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.