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Diabetes can't stop young player

Playing in World Cup Lianne Adair's goal

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Lianne ADAIR wants to play in the World Cup someday.

Like many Canadians she was captivated by the national women's soccer team that lost a heartbreaking semifinal to the United States last month before beating France to claim an Olympic bronze medal. She'd like to play soccer at a similar level in a few years, and there's nothing standing between her and that goal -- not even the Type 1 diabetes she has lived with since she was a toddler.

Lianne's mother, Joelle, recalls how quickly the disease descended on her daughter. Lianne was walking at 10 months, she points out, but suddenly started wobbling, regressing. She suspected Type 1 and took Lianne to be tested. "The nurse and doctor looked at each other and I knew right away," she says.

Now 10 years old, Lianne is no stranger to living with diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin, and insulin therapy, attention to diet and regular exercise will be part of her daily life as she continues to manage the disease.

Soccer is a big part of the "exercise" component for Lianne. She plays both outdoor and indoor soccer for the Bonivital club and participates in academies and summer camps as well. And she's already a Canadian international of sorts. Last month she took part in the annual Junior Cup Diabetes in Lausanne, Switzerland along with 10 other children from Canada and 11 other teams from around the world.

"It was a lot of fun," she says. "It meant a lot that I got to play soccer with other kids who also have Type 1 diabetes.

To take part in the tournament Lianne first had to undergo a qualification process that involved making a video of her skills and writing a short essay about why she wanted to be involved with the event. Nearly 250 children from across the country also applied for a place on the team, but in the end Lianne was one of the 11 selected (and the only Manitoban) to make the trip.

The 2012 Junior Cup Diabetes, organized by medical technology company Medtronic, was played in Lausanne's Olympic Stadium -- the ground where Sandor Kocsis scored twice in extra time to give Hungary a berth in the 1954 World Cup final at the expense of Uruguay. On Aug. 25 and 26 Lianne and her teammates played several short matches at the stadium and ended up placing ninth out of the 12 teams. They also won the tournament's "Diversity Award" for including four girls in the Canadian squad.

"It was the chance of a lifetime for Lianne to represent Canada," says Joelle, adding, "But the experience doesn't end here."

Next summer Lianne will be attending a camp in Toronto where she'll continue to work with an assistant coach from the Junior Cup Diabetes who specializes in helping athletes manage Type 1. Soccer, it seems, will be a significant part of her life going forward.

"It's extremely important for Lianne to be physically active," says Joelle, "and soccer is unpredictable. She'll never know how much cardio she'll be doing."

Since the pace and flow of soccer is never the same from one match to the next, a player really has no idea how much running they'll be doing. For an athlete with Type 1 diabetes such as Lianne, this is particularly challenging as blood sugar levels have to be monitored before, during and after the match.

"Before a game we try to have her blood sugar at a good number," says Joelle. "If it's low she'll have carbohydrates, and if it's high after the game it's because of adrenaline."

Prior to leaving for Switzerland Lianne received a good-luck telephone call from Desiree Scott, a Winnipegger who was part of Canada's bronze medal-winning team at the London Olympics. Lianne's ambitions probably aren't that different from Scott's at a similar age, even if the journey won't look quite the same.

"People look at Lianne and think everything is fine," says Joelle, "but they don't see all the work that goes into it." Twitter @peterssoccer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 C9

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