July 23/99 11:29 am - Personal Observations on the Pan Ams
Posted by Editor on 07/23/99
I sat tonight and watched the opening ceremonies for the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, as I am sure many of you did as well. For me it was somewhat special since I have personal relationships with many of the cyclists. In the Fall of 1990 I was approached by one of the elite members of the women's team that I ran (Edie Fisher) about a young rider who she thought we should sponsor - Clara Hughes. Clara was new to the sport, having come up quickly in the relative wasteland of Winnipeg, Manitoba. I added Clara to our roster, sight unseen, and gained what would be one of Canada's most accomplished riders at the start of her career, which continues now, at the 13th Pan American Games in her hometown of Winnipeg. Clara has become a personal friend since that time, and I am proud to say that I know her.
Clara moved to southern Ontario that Fall to follow her coach, Mirek Mazur, and brought a friend - Tanya Dubnicoff, a track sprinter. I went out riding with them frequently that fall (both away from home for the first time), and talked with Tanya about sponsoring her. Ultimately, Tanya decided to return home, but I have watched her develop over the years: 2 Pan Am golds, a world championship, world record and Commonwealth gold.
I have interviewed her, gone drinking with her, joked with her and congratulated her. At the recent Track Nationals I watched Tanya beat other sprinters, but do it with style: she didn't humiliate them, or try to intimidate them. Instead, she offered encouragement in every ride to the new riders who are trying to emulate her.
When she was chosen as the flagbearer for the Canadian team I was pleased, because she is a cyclist. When I congratulated her in Calgary, at the Track Nationals, I got the impression that she was a little overwhelmed at being chosen.
Watching her on the television tonight, when CBC had a mike on her, she said: "I've never had so many people wave at me." Well, Tanya, you deserve it. As an athlete, as a person, you have never given up. Many of us said that you came up fast and would burn out fast, but you defied us. You changed your training, your home base, but never your style. You have been a fighter your whole career.