Through the years
Successful P.E.I. athletes like Jared Connaughton, Kara Grant and Collin Affleck show no signs of stopping
Jared Connaughton, Kara Grant and Collin Affleck know a bit about the phrase body of work.
Combined, the trio — aged 23, 30 and 45, respectively — won five honours at the recent Sport P.E.I. awards banquet in Charlottetown.
All have been in their sport a long time and show little signs of stopping.
Stratford native Kara Grant’s chosen sport is the modern pentathlon, a grueling one-day combination of shooting, running, horse jumping, swimming and fencing.
She has competed in Summer Olympics in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and 2008 in Beijing, China — the only P.E.I. woman to score two Games.
That, along with a World Cup modern pentathlon bronze in Mexico, earned Grant her second senior female athlete of the year award and seventh Sport P.E.I. honour since 1995.
“I’ve certainly come a long way and it’s thanks to many, many people. I’m very proud of my career and my efforts over the last 12 years,” said Grant, who’s been on the national and international scene since 1997. “A lot of it is a personal journey. It’s quite an adventure.”
Just two weeks ago, Grant finished 31st at a World Cup event in Mexico (the same placing at the 2008 Games) and has another World Cup competition in Hungary in May.
But times are changing and Grant must change, too.
Late fall, International Modern Pentathlon Union combined the three-kilometre cross country run and the shooting portions for 2009.
Competitors used to shoot 20 shots at targets 10 metres away and the three-kilometre run came later in the day.
Now they shoot at five targets three times, each followed by a 1,000-metre run.
It’s a switch-up Grant is still adjusting to; after all, she’s honed her skills for over a decade under one format.
“It’s going to take some work,” she said.
Also life is reshaping her outlook.
After spending much of the last decade off-Island training and earning towards a degree at the University of New Brunswick, she returned to P.E.I. full-time last September with a husband (Jamie Whynacht), a business (Sportykids) and new perspective as she trains for the 2009 season.
“I do see my retirement in the future. Just have to see how it all develops.”
Often development bursts rather than slowly percolates.
Connaughton’s 2008 did that.
A 10:15, 100-metre time at a race in Texas and a 200-metre title at the Canadian track and field championships in Windsor. Ont. made him a lock for Canada’s Olympic team in Beijing.
China was kind to Connaughton.
He made the 200-metre semifinal and ran the third leg on Canada’s 4x100-metre men's relay team which finished sixth in its first final since 1996.
Connaughton, who chalks up his 2008 to consistent training and work, rarely returns to P.E.I. from his training base at the University of Texas-Arlington.
He’s been there since he was a freshman in 2003.
He graduated last year with an anthropology degree and the school’s 60-metre record (6.68), a Southland Conference athlete of the year award in 2006 and a SLC outdoor 200-metre championship in 2007.
So three award nominations offered him a chance to return to his native New Haven.
He won senior male athlete, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for athlete of the year and the Bill Halpenny award for an international competitor at the Sport P.E.I. banquet.
“To come home and be with my family is reward enough. This is just icing on the cake. I haven’t been home this time of year for a very long time,” said Connaughton.
But it’s been worth it in two memories from the 2005 Canada Summer Games that will always stay with him — his gold medals in 100 and 200 metres were P.E.I.’s first since 1969 and first double-golds at the Games.
Now in his second year as a professional sprinter, he won’t likely get back home soon.
He opened the indoor season in Russia in February (fifth in 60 metres, 6:74), then the KBC indoor championships in Belgium (fifth in 60 metres, 6:64).
Sunday, he heads to a Canadian relay team training camp in Ontario before moving on to the Canadian championships in Toronto in late June with a pre-championships meet beforehand.
In August, it’s the world championships in Berlin, Germany.
“Almost as busy as ’08,” said Connaughton.
The training-is-life-mentality is the often overlooked part in an athlete’s results.
Their sport is their life, training is everything, practice makes perfect; it’s what they hope on race or game day.
Couch potatoes can yell and throw drinks cans at the television when an athlete doesn’t meet expectations, but spend three hours five nights a week training like Affleck, and most of your waking hours thinking, eating and breathing your sport, and, well, cracking open another cold one seems like the wiser choice for most.
Affleck, from Mount Hebert, has a wisdom borne of 21 years of striving to perfect 1,000-year-old karate manouevers.
He won Sport P.E.I.’s masters athlete of the year award thanks to a bronze medal in the masters category at the national black belt championships in Saint John, N.B.
It was his first Sport P.E.I. award.
As an instructor at the Charlottetown Chito Ryo dojo, he helped train Trevor Cochrane, who won gold in the 14- to 15-year-old division at the nationals.
The mental side, said Affleck, is key to karate, original designed for battlefield use, as time creeps.
“Even more so. It’s a martial art. When you’re younger that’s what is focused on. As you age the art form comes into it. (You’re) always looking for that perfection,” said Affleck.
At it’s simplest Affleck pegs karate as a stress reliever following a long work day.
And maybe that’s the best outlook.
“(After) these (young) guys trying to punch you in the head all night, work has long since left you.”