By Martin Cleary
If ever there was an athletic couple that could be true representatives of the Americas, it would have to be Anne-Andrée Sirois and Rodrigo Ideus.
Let’s break it down, looking at how they have connections to the three geographical sections of the Americas.
Sirois, a rower, and Ideus, a former rower turned cross-country skier, reside in North America, are the parents of two children under seven years old, work as senior program analysts for Sport Canada and have links to the Ottawa Rowing Club.
The Central America affiliation belongs to Sirois as she’s training to represent El Salvador at the 2023 Pan American Games in Chile.
Ideus represents South America and has entered his second international sport. Colombia’s single sculls rower at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, he has transformed into a nordic skier and raced Wednesday on the opening day of world cross-country ski championships in Planica, Slovenia.
Ideus placed a respectable 33rd out of 69 finishers in the men’s 10-kilometre free-technique worlds qualification race. The top 10 skiers advanced to the men’s 15-kilometre free-technique race March 1.
The race attracted many skiers from countries traditionally not associated with nordic skiing, but these athletes have the motivation and enthusiasm to chase their cross-country skiing dreams.
Albert Jonsson of Israel won the qualification race in 26 minutes, 47.1 seconds and Ideus finished 5:27.8 behind in the middle of the pack. But Colombia did qualify one skier for the men’s 15-kilometre race as Fredrik Fodstad placed seventh and was 1:20.1 behind Jonsson.
Ideus was drawn to nordic skiing through the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“When I was watching the Olympics in 2018, I saw a Colombian skier. I thought I could ski better than him. I slowly worked towards that goal (of being an international racer).”
Ideus qualified for the world championships by scoring enough FIS points in his only two races this season at the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Centre – 29th in the men’s 10-kilometre classic mass start at the Eastern Canadian championships and 60th in the 10-kilometre free-technique race in the Candy Cane Cup.
“I raced and I didn’t do poorly. I got the points I needed. I sent in my application (for worlds),” said Ideus, who was accepted by the FIS worlds’ organizing committee. “I raced at the Candy Cane Cup (December). I did well enough to get the points I needed, but I didn’t place well.”
Ideus previously competed for Colombia in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He placed 27th in men’s single sculls and was a member of the Colombian rowing team from 2004-11.
While Ideus races at the world nordic championships, Sirois is focused on her ergometer rowing machine workouts. Her goal is to qualify for a berth on the El Salvador rowing team for the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5.
There will be four lightweight-class women from El Salvador on the rowing team and she is vying for a spot in the double sculls boat. The Pan Am qualifying race is April 15-19. She also will have four races at the 43-sport 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games June 23 to July 8.
Sirois sends her ergometer test scores every month to the El Salvador coach and she understands she is first or second in the standings.
“It’s a (qualifying) race. It will be a mental game, who can last the longest and push through,” Sirois explained. “It will be hard, but I will push as hard as I can.”
For many years, Sirois has travelled to El Salvador to visit her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, while also rowing and training with the country’s national team. She qualifies to race for El Salvador as her parents were born in the Central American country of 6.4-million people.
Sirois, who won gold medals at the 2022 Royal Canadian Henley regatta in the women’s lightweight four and quad with her Ottawa Rowing Club crews, started rowing in university, after a lengthy artistic gymnastics career that ended when she was 17 years old.
“I was looking for a sport that was low impact. At college (University of Ottawa), I tried out and made the novice team in 2006,” said Sirois, who retired in 2014, but started training again when she had more time during the pandemic.
When El Salvador heard Sirois had returned to the water, a national team official contacted her and invited her to rejoin the team. In her 10+ years of rowing, she has never tried out for the Canadian team.
“I always focused on my studies and I never wanted to commit to moving away for sport,” said Sirois, who has a bachelor’s degree in health science (human kinetics) and a master’s in sport administration.
“I do sports for fun. El Salvador was a bonus. I train at our club (Ottawa Rowing Club) and I row for them (El Salvador).”
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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