Like most of us, Brandon’s Amanda Thornborough tuned in this month to watch the sports spectacle that is the Summer Olympic Games.
Unlike most of us, she actually has a chance to compete in them one day.
The 22-year-old graduate of the Vincent Massey Vikings and Brandon Barbarians rugby programs became a legitimate candidate to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when she was one of 12 players named to Canada’s elite rugby sevens team two weeks ago.
Rugby sevens — the faster seven-player version of the traditional 15-player game — will make its Olympic debut in four years in Brazil and Thornborough is determined to be there.
“It’s enough to drive you every day, basically,” she said this week. “It’s no longer just a passion for me, it’s my job, it’s my life. So just having a big goal like that really puts things into perspective.”
Thornborough will continue her meteoric rise on the national rugby scene when she dons Canada’s colours on Saturday and Sunday to compete in the North American Caribbean Rugby Association sevens championship in Ottawa. It’s Thornborough’s first time on the national ‘A’ team, after previously competing in Las Vegas and Dubai on Canada’s developmental team.
“I am super excited,” said Thornborough, an Atlantic conference all-star with the St. FX University Huskies, who will host this year’s CIS championship in her fifth and final season. “It’s the first time that I am on the elite side, so I just want to show what I’ve got … This is definitely the first step to the Olympic team, so I am headed in the right direction.”
The 5-foot-6 forward is one of a number of potential future Canadian Olympians from southwestern Manitoba. Among other candidates:
• Russell’s Jon Montgomery. The fun-loving, beer-swilling skeleton slider raced to a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. The 33-year-old speed demon is expected to compete for Canada again at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
• Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh. The 28-year-old Neelin graduate is a rising star on the national skeleton team, moving up from 60th to 30th in the women’s world rankings last season after racking up seven medals in 10 international races, clinching the 2011-12 America’s Cup title and finishing third at nationals. With another strong season, Hawrysh could earn a shot to crack Canada’s 2014 Olympic team.
• Minnedosa’s Kyle Parrott. The pride of the Brandon-based Westman Speed Skating Club is back in the national speedskating program following a year off after competing for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. The 26-year-old will try to qualify for the World Cup circuit this season in hopes of earning a trip to Russia for the 2014 Games.
• Virden residents Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers. The Canadian pairs figure skaters, who are ranked third in the country, left this week for Florida to train for two weeks with former Olympian Lyndon Johnston of Hamiota. Originally from Saskatchewan, Lawrence, 22, and Swiegers, 24, are now based out of Virden under the direction of coach Patty Hole and hope to be one of the two or three Canadian teams to qualify for the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.
• Brandon natives Rob Fowler, Mike McEwen (now living in Winnipeg) and Nolan Thiessen (based out of Edmonton) and Wheat City resident Allan Lyburn. They will be battling to secure spots in the 2013 Canadian Olympic curling trials, in hopes of earning that coveted trip to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
• Brandon’s Lisa Barclay. The 20-year-old Crocus Plains graduate made her debut with the national women’s ‘A’ volleyball team this summer at the Pan Am Cup in Mexico. The 6-foot-2 left side with the UBC Thunderbirds — MVP at the 2012 CIS nationals — could help Canada (ranked 22nd in the world) qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
• Brandon’s Dustin Schneider, Rivers’ product Toon Van Lankvelt and Russell’s Kevin Miller. Schneider, a 27-year-old setter, and Van Lankvelt, a 28-year-old left side, are members of Canada’s national men’s ‘A’ volleyball team that came agonizingly close to qualifying for this summer’s London Olympics, falling one win short. Miller is a 24-year-old left side and BU graduate who made the national ‘B’ team that competed in the Pan-Am Games last fall and currently works out full-time at the national training centre in Gatineau, Que. They hope to help Canada — ranked 18th in the world — qualify for the 2016 Summer Games.
• Brandon’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk, Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak and Bruxelles’ Cassidy Carels. The talented trio are members of Canada’s under-18 women’s hockey team and could be candidates for the Olympic team one day.