So, where do I begin? There’s so much to write and so much that I don’t want to write at all. One of the best things about my journey through this sport is being able to share my story with those who care to follow because sport is something that can enrapture and thrill anyone and everyone. In my opinion, sport is a great display of the human spirit, compassion and the limits that the human body can withstand.
The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games was an event I had been waiting for since the closing ceremonies of the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara. I knew this would be probably the only chance in my career as an athlete to compete at this level on home soil. In pentathlon, the Pan Am Games double as our continental qualifier for the Olympic Games, so I had been dreaming of securing my berth in Toronto.
Not to my surprise, my family and friends rallied together and boarded two coach buses full of team McCannCAN supporters from my small community to cheer me on. I was humbled that so many people wanted to come and see why I have been so pentathlon crazy for the last 10 years.
As I walked out to the fencing stadium in the athlete parade, my breath was taken away to see 160+ people in red shirts. It was time to salute the judges, coaches and crowd and get down to business. Even though I had been preparing for this day for months, I was still feeling the pressure to perform and overwhelmed as the moment finally caught up with me. I had a slow start in the fencing and after I got hit twice in the mask, my heart dropped, the tears started flowing and that was exactly what I needed to get in gear and start fighting for my points. I finished 5th overall in the fence, which wasn’t ideal, but at least gave me something to work with going into the next events.
The swimming event went by quickly for me. I had a simple job: go fast and embrace the pain. I could feel the energy from my supporters in the stands, and I pushed hard for a season best swim of 2:20.6. My coach John patted me on the back afterwards, told me that swim time would work okay and to get changed for the fencing ladder.
The fencing ladder was uneventful as I didn’t record any victories, but it was more of a battle to keep my body temperature down as the outside temperature had risen to 30*C. After another wardrobe change from fencing whites to riding breeches, I had time some to study my mount for the riding event. A smooth warm up and I was feeling confident going into the show ring. The McCann Clan was hushed in the bleachers as I saluted the judges and waited for the bell to sound so I could start. My magnificent mount Donahuge and I navigated the course precisely and deliberately checking off one jump at a time, while looking for the next. I was sure to monitor the horse’s pace and distance to give him the best chance at clearing the obstacles. With only one time penalty, we recorded a near perfect ride and I stood in 3rd position going into the final event.
I knew I had some fast runners behind me, so my race plan for the combined event was to go out hard and hold on – I had to put it all on the line. I did my best to hold my nerves in the shoot and keep my stops on the range short and efficient. By the third lap of the 3200m race, I was already labouring, but I continued to push on as I knew I was getting hunted down by the girls behind me. With the finish line in sight, sitting in 4th position and my legs giving out from under me, I could almost taste my Olympic berth. 100 meters to go and a red jersey flew by me – there was nothing I could do. I was going as hard as my body would let me and I collapsed across the finish line with tears streaming down my face. I laid there gasping for air and in disbelief of a 5th place finish. My Canadian teammate had secured the Olympic spot ahead of me.
So that was it. The competition I had been preparing for all year narrowly slipped through my fingers. Hugs from my coaches and my mother on the field of play could not console my disappointment.
After pulling myself together, I made my way out to the stands where the ‘sea of red’ waited to greet me. Despite being heartbroken with the result, I had much to be proud of. I wiped my face, removed my hat and was welcomed into the familiar embrace of so many people I adore. I had the absolute privilege to perform in front of my family and friends and share my passion with them. They got to ride the highs and lows of sport with me, and it is a day I will never forget. I am not sure if the team McCann CAN knows how much of a driving force they were behind me not only that day, but also every competition and training session along the way. So thank you for that.
The Road to Rio will be a little longer now that I will be chasing World Ranking points in 2016. I am more determined than ever and the fire burns even brighter, but I have no doubt that I will make it there.
A special shout out to goes to my coaches who got me to this point: John Hawes, Paul ApSimon, Rick Maynard, Jeff McKessock, Mike Woods, Carl Nienhuis and John Zahab. And my super star physiotherapist who keeps me in one piece: Jaime Trick. Couldn’t be done without you all!