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Home Alumni Alumni News What it takes to compete at the Olympic level

What it takes to compete at the Olympic level

SAIT alumna Melanie McCann competes in modern pentathalon at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Melanie McCann competes in modern pentathalon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. McCann finished 15th at the 2016 Games and 11th — a Canadian Olympic record — at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Photo courtesy Melanie McCann.

Sacrifice is a word used a lot in the telling of an Olympic athlete's story. For those who strive to compete at that level, there's simply no way around it.

Melanie McCann, a modern pentathlete who competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games in London and Rio, respectively, admits there are things she has missed out on, but there is no regret.

"When you make the Olympic team and are actually there, none of it feels like a sacrifice. In the end, it was all par for the course," says McCann, a graduate from SAIT's Civil Engineering Technology program (2010) who is back seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. "I wouldn't trade any of the hard work or missed parties, missed family events. I wouldn't trade any of it because when you get there, you realize this is what I wanted and this is what I worked for."

SAIT Board of Governors member, Patrick Jarvis, who ran in the 800-and 1,500-metre events at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, agrees.

Paralympic athlete Patrick Jarvis at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona

"People would see it as sacrifices, whether it be time with family or personal aspects that happen in everybody's life," says Jarvis, a graduate from SAIT's Petroleum Technology program (1981), and now the Executive Director for Canada Snowboard. "But for me, my priority was my training and focusing on competing at the games."

Jarvis went on to become part of the organizing committee that brought the winter games to Vancouver in 2010. Eight years removed from that, and slightly more years removed from his days competing, he says watching the games in PyeongChang brings back fond memories.

"All of the wins, the losses. The joys, the frustrations. It is that whole ball of emotional experience," he says. "But, what I take away from it at the end of the day is the joy and connection that the Games brings to a multitude of people."

McCann added that she will be ‘glued to her TV' during the games as she cheers on who she calls her Olympic family.

"When you are on the Olympic team, you are a part of that whole Olympic team," she says. "Being on the Canadian Olympic Team, whether it summer or winter, you're all on the same page and rooting for each other."

Written by Brody Mark

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