Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Super 7 going to Scotland for Games

Manitobans crack Commonwealth team

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They all come from Manitoba, though their journeys have taken them through far different sports, from a veteran weightlifter to a teen gymnastics phenom.

Now, seven Manitobans share this much in common: They will all follow their dream to Scotland this month, to compete for Canada in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

On Monday, the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba announced the final list of Manitobans who made the cut for the Games, which kick off in Glasgow on July 23, and run until Aug. 4. Some of the seven, such as weightlifter Marie-Josee Ares-Pilon, have been to the Commonwealth Games before. Others, such as 16-year-old Brandon gymnast Isabela Onyshko, will make the journey for the first time.

All of the athletes qualified for the Games team based on achievements set out by their respective national sport organizations. And they can bet those NSOs will be watching, as they start planning for their 2016 Olympic contingents to Rio. "To make any of those Canadian teams is a very big step in any athlete's career," CSCM director Jeff Powell said. "From a developmental point of view, the list of big international multi-sport competitions is short."

Perhaps leading the way for Manitoba's medal hopes will be cyclist Leah Kirchmann, 24, who recently completed the "triple crown" of Canadian road cycling, when she won the time trial, road and criterium races at the 2014 national championships. Triathlete Sarah-Anne Brault, who now trains out of Quebec, also could press for a medal. She is currently ranked seventh in the world.

Rounding out the Manitoban contingent on Team Canada are shooter Monica Fyfe, skeet shooter Jonathan Weselake and middle-distance runner Nicole Sifuentes, 28, a 2012 Olympian who also competed for Canada in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She finished fourth in the 1,500-metre race at the recent indoor world championships, and was promoted to bronze after the third-place finisher was disqualified for stepping off the track.

Perhaps one of the most exciting new faces is Onyshko, who trains with the Brandon Eagles and burst onto the international scene this season. In her first international meet in Montreal, she captured gold on the uneven bars; at her second, the World Cup Challenge in Qatar, she won bronze on the floor. So although she will be the youngest member of the Canadian squad in Glasgow, she comes in with experience.

"She's truly all-international-calibre," Powell said. "In a best-case scenario, there isn't any reason why we couldn't come home with three medals or more from Manitoban athletes.

"It all comes down to their performance on the day, but we've been very encouraged with the performance of all of these athletes."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 15, 2014 D1

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