| Jun 04, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 4, 2009 Sydenham supports young Olympic hopefulsby Julie Druker

Olympic hopefuls Natasha Ostopovich, Scott Takala, Cia Myles-Gonzalez and Erika Gibbons

Local athletes setting their sights on the highest level of competition in their sports got a boost last Saturday when the Sydenham Legion held a fundraiser to help them along in their quests for Olympic gold.

For young athletes, the costs of travel and living expenses and other out-of-pocket expenses required to attend important qualifying events and training camps can make reaching their Olympic goals difficult.

Recognizing these difficulties, Derrick Anderson, past president of the Sydenham Legion, with the help of current president John Pickernell, Maryanne Takala and other members decided last Christmas to set up a Legion fund specifically to benefit these young athletes.

The “Sydenham Supports” event was their first effort and the $20 tickets included food and live musical entertainment by two local bands, Rock Bottom and Still Standin’. Individual community members and businesses also donated items that were auctioned off.

By 7PM close to 100 tickets had been pre-sold and organizers were expecting more tickets to be purchased at the door as the evening progressed.

Anderson explained his motivation “…to get the community of Sydenham on the world stage and thereby raise community spirit and benefit the entire community.”

Local athletes Natasha Ostopovich and Scott Takala were at the event and grateful for the community support.

Natasha, who has just completed her second year at Washington State University on a full rowing scholarship, currently rows on their varsity team. Previously a canoeist and later a kayaker with the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club, she won a bronze and silver medal in the Canadian nationals. When she realized that canoeing was not an Olympic sport, she switched her sport to rowing.

Aiming to improve her skills and to keep in shape over the summer, she is planning to enter the Ontario Summer Games Team so she can return to school in top form. As far as the Olympics go, 20-year-old Natasha realizes that while her schooling to become a teacher is her immediate concern, she knows that she must continue to train and compete in her sport in order to have a shot at the Olympics. She believes that her chances will not likely come until the 2016 games.

As far as funding goes, she admits, “There is very little funding available in Canada for rowing and if you are invited to a national training camp, you don’t have the time and energy both to work and train, so financially, it can be quite difficult.”

For Scott Takala, a tri-athlete who has just graduated from Trent University and who won first place in the short course 20-24 age group World Championships last summer in Vancouver, funding is a definite hurdle.

He explained, “There is absolutely no funding available to tri-athletes through universities or any other organizations, for that matter.”

Takala, coached by Richard Cadman of Sunbury, just returned from a one-month training session and race in Hawaii. He has a number of important upcoming races this summer and fall including the ITU Pan American Cup that takes place June 20, east of Montreal, and the World Olympic Distance Triathlon on September 13 that takes place in Australia - both costly events.

For Takala these are important races that he needs to compete in. He explained, “These races will tell me a lot about where I am at and what I need to do to be a candidate for the 2012 Olympic games in London and/or the 2016 games.”

Regarding the Legion fundraiser he said “This event will go a long way to help all local athletes.”

Natasha and Scott are not the only athletes hoping to benefit from the Sydenham Legion fund. Younger athletes Cia Myles-Gonzalez and Erika Gibbons, both successful paddlers with the Sydenham Lake Canoe Club, are also hoping to be able to compete one day on the world stage.

Saturday night’s dance raised $4811. Thanks to the Sydenham Legion and community supporters, these athletes’ dreams of going for gold stand a greater chance of being realized. 

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