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East and North Kildonan will be well represented on the water at the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

Hayden Fellner, James Lavallée, and Paige Ellison will kayaking for Team Manitoba at the Games this month, while Mateus Braga will be canoeing for the province.

Fellner, Lavallée chasing gold

"We’ll be racing for the top spot," said Fellner, a 21-year-old Miles Macdonell alumnus who got started paddling as part of the school’s dragon boat team back in 2009. "I’d say at least we should be getting a medal, whether it’s me or somebody else on the team."

Fellner previously competed in the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que., as a 17-year-old. Since then, he’s competed in numerous national and international regattas, and has trained with the national team.

"It’s stressful, competing on the international level, but at the same time it’s fun," he said. "It’s always good competition, and it’s fun to race other top athletes."

Fellner and Lavallée have been paddling together for eight years. The two will be competing individually in a number of races, as a duo in the K2 200- and 500-metre races, as well as taking part in the K4 team events.

"We train hard and focus hard, but there’s still that level of friendship," said Lavallée, a 19-year-old River East Collegiate grad. "Everyone here (on Team Manitoba) is very hard working, very determined."

For both Fellner and Lavallée, the main goal at the Canada Games is to reach the podium. With years of national and international experience behind them, Fellner and Lavallée both said they have a good sense of who they’re up against at the Canada Games, and that if they put in their best efforts, they should be in contention.

"It’s all about getting as many medals for Manitoba as possible, whatever it takes," Lavallée said. "I think we have a strong chance in K2 500 and 200. We’ve been working pretty good together, and the K1 500 I think I have a good shot at."

"I just like to race really well in general," Fellner said. "If I accomplish that, if I peak properly, then I should get a few medals, I would say."

Ellison hoping to place high

Ellison, a 17-year-old kayaker and student at Miles Macdonell Collegiate, was introduced to the sport four years ago by Fellner, a family friend.

"I didn’t really ever anticipate being too serious in the sport, but it’s such a tight knit community that people push you to be your best every day," Ellison said. "It got me more involved and more excited."

Ellison will be taking part in a number of individual races, along with the K4 women’s team races. She’ll be competing in the K2 200 and 500 meter races with 19-year-old Emma Mitchell, a Riverbend resident.

"We’ve been training a lot, almost every day," Ellison said. "We’re really working towards doing very well at the Games."

A veteran of the 2015 Western Canada Games and other national regattas, Ellison said she feels confident going into the competition next week.

"It would be great to win a medal at the Games, that’s always the goal," said Ellison, who is among the younger paddlers taking part in the Games. "But it would be great just to make a final, because there’s a lot of great competitors."

Rookie Braga raring to get paddling

North Kildonan’s Braga, 19, is relatively new to canoeing. The former captain of the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes football team started training at the Canoe and Kayak Centre in January, and only got onto the water for the first time in March.

"I just started working hard, training every day," said Braga. "I just love to be on the water. The team is a great atmosphere, they all drove me to get better."

Braga took part in his first canoe competitions in Regina and Saskatoon this spring.
"I found I could race against the guys in the west," he said. "I’m expecting a high level of competition (at the Games)."

Braga will take part in the C4 200-metre and 1,000-metre races, and may yet be a competitor in one or more of the two-man canoe races, though he said that the more experienced members of the team get the nod for the individual races.

"I’m just here to do my best, and hopefully the team boats we’re in can make a final," Braga said. "I want to represent Manitoba well."

Individual, pairs, and team kayak and canoe events take place between Mon., Aug. 7 and Thurs., Aug. 10 at the Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Centre (80 Churchill Dr.). For more information, visit canadagames.ca/2017/content/canoekayak

Twitter: @heraldWPG

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community journalist — The Herald

Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at sheldon.birnie@canstarnews.com Call him at 204-697-7112

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