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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Sisters Zoe, Abby Wojtyk qualify for COC/RBC Training Ground national final

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By Martin Cleary

When Zoe Wojtyk gets into her canoe and heads to the start line, she has a good sense of how her race will unfold.

A quick look at her results resume indicates she has won numerous provincial, national and international medals through her hard work and talent.

But when she registered for the seventh Canadian Olympic Committee/RBC Training Ground testing camp in May at the University of Ottawa, she had no idea where her results would take her. Each athlete went through five speed, strength, power and endurance benchmark tests.

“There were so many athletes testing in Canada, I figured there was no way I would be in the Top 100,” Wojtyk said in a phone interview this week.

More than 1,500 athletes from a wide range of sports participated in regional Training Ground tryout camps across Canada, but Wojtyk’s testing scores earned her a berth as a Top-100 national finalist.

And Wojtyk will be attending the final in Ottawa with her sister Abby, who also made the Top-100 chart.

The Wojtyk sisters, who are emerging as high-performance canoeists at the Rideau Canoe Club, were joined in the Top 100 by five other Ottawa athletes – Rideau canoeist Matthew O’Neill, track sprinters Melchisedek Baptiste and Ifeoluwa Adewoye and speed skaters Matthew Freitag (short-track) and Brielle Durham (long-track).

After the Oct. 22 national finals, organizers will select up to 30 athletes for funding as RBC Future Olympians and award them a berth on a national sports team. The final list of top athletes will be released in November during a nationally-televised documentary on TSN.

The Canadian final also will be attended by past Olympians, recruiters from nine national sport governing bodies and coaches. Thirteen Training Ground grads have won a total of seven medals at two Olympic Games, including track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell and freestyle ski aerialist Marion Thénault.

“I was surprised,” added Wojtyk, who won two bronze medals at the recent world junior canoe kayak sprint championships in Hungary. “My mom texted me that I had qualified for the final. I didn’t expect it. It was a nice surprise.”

Wojtyk was part of a group of about 10 Rideau paddlers who attended the Training Ground session four months ago because it was “a cool opportunity” to test herself, whether she made the final or not.

“It was fun and there were a bunch of other athletes. It was a competitive atmosphere and we were all doing our best. The Beep test was my best. I enjoyed it,” she continued. “Just going there and putting in my best effort gave me a shot.”

The Beep test is a 20-metre multi-stage fitness challenge to measure an athlete’s aerobic capability.

Wojtyk, who competes in the U18 class, also had a regatta to remember at the Canada Summer Games, combining with older sister and junior racer Amelia to win 10 medals, including three together, on the Welland, ON. course.

Abby Wojtyk, a U16 canoeist, wasn’t confident she would qualify for the national final, after her preliminary test.

“I am much more an endurance athlete,” explained Abby, who attended the training session as another athletic experience. “My results showed me that. It was hard. The Beep test was hard.”

But when she learned she had made the Top 100, it was a great way to end her day.

“I was super excited. When I got the email, I was in Slovakia. I was going to bed when I opened the email,” said Abby, who won silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Hopes Regatta in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Ottawa’s other finalists for the Training Ground national finals are:

Matthew O’Neill, 20, Rideau Canoe Club, men’s canoe
Fifth in the men’s C4 500-metre final at the 2022 world senior canoe kayak sprint championships in Dartmouth, N.S., and represented Canada at the 2022 world U23 championships.

Melchisedek Baptiste, 21, track and field sprinter
· Finished seventh in the men’s 100-metre final at the 2022 Quebec Open athletics championships.

Ifeoluwa Adewoye, 23, track and field sprinter
· Former notable West Carleton Secondary School athlete, has competed in numerous Ottawa Twilight meets.

Brielle Durham, 18, long-track speed skater
· Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club athlete placed third in the women’s 1,500 metres at the 2022 Ontario championships and has competed in Canada Cup races.

Matthew Freitag, 17, short-track speed skater
· Ottawa Pacers Speed Skating Club athlete was the Canada Cup 3 bronze medallist in the men’s mass start.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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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