BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
Nicole Garceau doesn't waste the time she spends away from her eight-year-old daughter Julia.
Garceau, a 29-year-old freestyle wrestler, is in intense training for her shot at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. A dislocated elbow kept her from qualifying for the 2004 event.
A former three-time Canadian National Champion in the '90s, Garceau has plenty of motivational fuel for her Olympic dream.
"My daughter holds me accountable," said Garceau. "I spend a lot of time away from her training and competing. I have to know every time I come home, when I look her in the eye, that the time away from her wasn't wasted. How can she go for her dreams, if I don't do it myself and set the standard."
Her father, Jules, who was a boxer, also lends inspiration to her efforts.
"My father is also a big influence," said Garceau. "He was an undefeated boxer, but had a work-related accident that left him semi-paralyzed when he was 26. Then, he had a stroke. Doctors told him he wouldn't ever walk or talk again, and he was confined to a wheelchair. He did walk and talk again, after 10 years of constant rehabilitation. Then, when he was 42, he and my mother had me. He never gave up, and I won't either."
Coupled with her incredible drive is a tremendous amount of self-belief.
"I know I can make it," said Garceau. "I am a gifted athlete. If I don't give it my all, then it would be a waste of God-given talent. Wrestling in the Olympics has been a childhood dream for me."
Garceau, a student at Laurentian University, was well on her way to the 2004 Olympics when fate decided to throw her a curve ball.
In May of 2003, Garceau was competing in the Canadian National Championships in the 67-kilogram division. In her first match, she dislocated her elbow. The Olympic Trials followed soon after, and Garceau couldn't compete for a shot at the 2004 Olympics. At the time, she was ranked second in Canada. Garceau is now currently ranked in the top three, and will wrestle in the 63-kilogram division.
"That was tough year," said Garceau. "It was a devastating injury that I am still recovering from, and made me re-evaluate what I was doing. After a lot of reflection, I knew the Olympics were my path, and the injury was just an obstacle. What makes a true champion is overcoming those obstacles.
Nothing is going to stop me this time. My elbow is better, and I have my father's iron will."
Over the next four years, Garceau will train and compete in preparation for the next Olympic Trials.
Her biggest foe now is the financial burden that affects many self-funded Canadian amateur athletes.
Her part-time employer, Kim LeTourneau, owner of Hope House, believes in Garceau and donated $500 to help cover her costs. Brady Physiotherapy also signed on as a sponsor.
Making the Olympics will be worth all the sacrifices and arduous work.
"If my daughter looks into my eyes with pride, then it's all worth everything I do," said Garceau. "To represent my country at the biggest athletic competition would be a honour, and my biggest dream come true."