Barbara Mervin a remarkable ambassador in Canadian sports

While Christine Sinclair and Hayley Wickenheiser have emerged among the group of female sporting heroes inspiring a new generation of young women, there are many other remarkable women that have carved a unique legacy. One of the most relevant figures in Canadian female rugby is Barbara Mervin. With 21 caps for Canada, including the 2010 World Cup, Mervin has forged a solid international career. A captain of the select side and back row on the National Sevens Women’s Team, she has also competed with BC in national rugby tournaments.

Leaping in for a tackle at the Hong Kong 7’s (Image by Ron Leblanc)

Leaping in for a tackle at the Hong Kong 7’s (Image by Ron Leblanc)

Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, Mervin currently calls Victoria, British Columbia home. At the university level, Mervin was part of the University of Western Ontario’s program, winning 2005 CIS National Player of the Year honors. The MVP award would complement her CIS Rookie of the Year Award and the two national titles she would contribute to the Mustangs. Having laid her hat throughout the unique regions of the country, she has experienced many great aspects of what it means to be a proud Canadian.

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Known affectionately as Swevin Mervin, she is more than just an elite athlete, but a remarkable role model and ambassador for the growth of women in sport. Having been part of the National Rugby Team since 2004, her presence serves to make everyone around her better.

Shoulder pads made and designed by Mervin. Called the Attack-Her and the fabric is High Tackle

Shoulder pads made and designed by Mervin. Called the Attack-Her and the fabric is High Tackle

In addition to her veteran presence on the field, she also displays remarkable leadership off the field. Along with organizing fund raisers, she donates her time to summer camps, coaches the University of Victoria women’s rugby team and sandwiches in a solid five hours a day of training.

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A real life Wonder Woman, Mervin is also a fashion designer and founder of her own line. Called Aptoella / Rugby, she wears many hats, including founder, designer and blogger. After a sabbatical in Hawaii during 2006 in Hawaii, a relocation to Victoria triggered her interest in a fashion line. A lack of selection was compounded by outfits that were not flattering. It would serve as the catalyst to enroll in the fashion design program at Pacific Design College.

In June 2013, Mervin had the opportunity to compete with the BC Provincial Rugby Team. With her eye for fashion, she had the distinction of designing the uniforms. Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/APTOELLA

In June 2013, Mervin had the opportunity to compete with the BC Provincial Rugby Team. With her eye for fashion, she had the distinction of designing the uniforms. Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/APTOELLA

By creating performance apparel, Mervin is incorporating her love of sport and design to create stylish rugby clothing that helps to instill a sense of pride and celebration in the sport. Her business ambitions make her a terrific role model for women looking to believe they can make their dreams come true.

In Las Vegas for the 2013 Beauty of Sports edition of Sportsnet Magazine (Photo credit: Matt Barnes, Obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=2&gallery=mervin)

In Las Vegas for the 2013 Beauty of Sports edition of Sportsnet Magazine (Photo credit: Matt Barnes, Obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=2&gallery=mervin)

Testament to her likability and status as a role model is the fact that her hometown club, the Peterborough Pagans still supports her. Currently part of the Velox Valkyries Rugby Club, the move to Victoria has made training partners and ideal rugby facilities ideal for sharpening her formidable skills.

While rugby is still a growing sport, it is starting to gain traction in Canada. Famed Winter Games gold medalist Heather Moyse is a renowned rugby player. Stevi Schnoor, a prominent rugby player in British Columbia won a champion with the BC Angels in the Legends Football League. Brittany Waters, a national team member with 14 caps appeared with Mervin in the Beauty of Sport Edition in Sportsnet Magazine.

Sport tends to be celebrated for its personalities and Mervin is one of many unique and special personalities that makes the game of rugby one which is worthy of a bigger spotlight. Helping to empower a generation of young women engage in sport, she is more than a world class athlete, but her commitment to dedication and integrity make her a world class person.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes