Who are these “celebrities”?
Jessica Groeneveld: I started Paddling in 2000. That year I went to the Alberta Summer Games in Grand Prairie and won my first gold medal; after that I was hooked. I won a few national championships as a Cadet (under age 14). I made the Junior National team in 2006 and made my first trip to Europe to compete against the world. I have been to Europe competing every year since and just can’t get enough of it. In 2008 I placed 2nd at the Pan American championships in Charlotte N.C. and qualified for Canada’s Beijing Olympic spot at that race. 2008 was also my first year on the national team. In 2009 I made top Canadian female on the national team at trials in May. In August I won Pan American championships on my home course in Kananaskis; and with London 2012 in sight I have no plans to slow down any time soon.
Paul Manning Hunter: Paul Manning-Hunter was orginally from Edmonton, Alberta but now lives in Calgary to train with his coach Michael Holroyd. Paul spent four years on the Canadian junior national team and placed 5th at the 2005 Junior Pre-World championships in Solkan, Slovenia and was Canadian junior and North American Under-23 champion.
Paul is now a member of the Canadian senior national team and was 4th at the 2012 Pan-American championships at Foz-do-Iguacu, Brazi
When Paul is not kayaking he is attending Mount Royal University or following his passion of photographing and filming wildlife and nature.
John Hastings: It all started at the age of 16 in my hometown of Aurora, Ontario. After watching the opening ceremonies and athletes like Simon Whitfield, Caroline Brunet and Steve Giles win medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, I realized that I not only wanted to go to the Olympic Games, but that I too wanted to win a medal for Canada.
As a member of the Canadian Junior National Team at the time, I realized that in order for me to go to the games, I needed to become the best in the country. With many distinguished athletes in front of me, I realized that this was not going to be any easy task; the road in front of me was long and arduous.
At the age of 18, entering my final year of high school, I had to make the first of many difficult decisions. I was provided with the opportunity to relocate to Ottawa, Ontario to train full-time at the National Team training center. To chose this route would involve leaving behind my family and friends and since I had spent much of my life in Aurora, starting fresh at a new high school would be a daunting and undesirable task. However, the dream of achieving Olympic excellence was too powerful and with the support of both my family and friends, I packed my bags and headed north.
With my recent move, I anticipated immediate success; however, when I didn’t achieve the results I wanted in that first year (i.e. placing in the top 4, and making the national team), the thought of quitting entered my mind. I was young and immature then and didn’t realize that time is an integral factor in achieving excellence. My dad told me, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”, and with this in mind I kept my chin up and persevered.
I chipped away, day-by-day, and gradually moved my way up the national ranking list. I spent much time racing and training in America, Europe and Australia with the sole goal of collecting as much experience and knowledge as possible. It was not until 2006, five years after my initial move to Ottawa, that I finally made the national team, qualifying second overall. With this title, I was provided with the opportunity to represent Canada on the World Cup circuit and at the World Championships and having been doing so ever since.
In 2008, I thought I was going to the Olympics. All of the training and racing leading up to our Olympic Trials made me believe that my dream was going to come to fruition; however, things didn’t go as planned. I missed the team and found myself in the very difficult position to either quit/retire, or try again in four years. I deliberated, and decided to go for it. Since 2008, I have made finals at World Cups, have won a few International races; but most importantly, I feel I am on pace to realizing my Olympic dream.
I believe life is all about minimizing regrets…we will never regret our failures and successes, but we will always regret never trying. I am chasing my dream, I am following my passion. London 2012, here I come.
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Compiled by: Josh Martin