Mellisa Hollingsworth looking for golden redemption at Sochi

After a heartbreaking collapse at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games which saw a dejected Melissa Hollingsworth in tears, an opportunity for golden redemption is one that is four years in the making. Having qualified for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the 33 year-old from Eckville, Alberta cites rowing legend Marnie McBean as her influence.

Mellisa Hollingsworth at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games

Mellisa Hollingsworth at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games

With three rookies on the Canadian skeleton team for Sochi, Hollingsworth may be the one who finds herself in the role of influence. Calgary’s Sarah Reid, a former ballet dancer and World Championship bronze medalist during the 2012-13 season is 26 years old and will certainly look up to Hollingsworth. Her wisdom and experience will provide a sisterly influence to help Reid adjust to this new experience. On the men’s side, John Fairbairn and Eric Neilson comprise the remaining rookies.

Boasting a bronze medal from the 2006 Torino Winter Games, Hollingsworth is accustomed to competing on the world’s biggest stage. Her skeleton resume is one that would be the envy of any racer. Competing in the FIBT circuit, she has claimed a silver medal in 2000 and 2012, along with a bronze in 2011. During the 2005-06 and 2009-10 seasons, she would finish both as World Cup champion.

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine's 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from:

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine’s 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from:

Of note, it has not been an easy road to redemption for Hollingsworth. Suffering from fatigue and sickness during a difficult 2012-13 season, she would only manage one finish on the podium. Refusing to give up, her sojourn to Sochi makes her a role model for young women looking to pursue their dreams.

Considering she began skeleton at age 15, through the encouragement of cousin and skeleton racer Ryan Davenport, she has devoted more than half her life to the sport. Considering she nearly left the sport after failing to qualify for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, fans would have been cheated from seeing one of the most accomplished Canadian female athletes of the last decade.

Melissa Hollingsworth made her pro rodeo debut in 2011 (Image obtained from:

Melissa Hollingsworth made her pro rodeo debut in 2011 (Image obtained from:

When not training for skeleton, Hollingsworth can be found on the rodeo circuit. Having established herself as a two-sport star with her endeavors in barrel racing, she devoted part of her 2013 to working on the ranch of accomplished barrel racer Tammy Fishcer. As the proud owner of two of her own horses, the Prairie pride that comes from looking after horses runs in her blood.

Raised on a ranch in Eckville, she made her professional rodeo debut at the Grande Prairie Stampede during the summer of 2011. Similar to the speed of racing down an icy track, she can reach speeds of 100 km/h as she tries to navigate the horse around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. To the casual sports fan, it would be easy to label her as an adrenaline junkie.

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from:

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from:

While the Canadian Olympic Committee was cautious about the risk of her engaging in such a sport, it has proven to be a labor of love. With the support of Dee Butterfield and Brook Robertson, rodeo has served as a form of occupational therapy which helped Hollingsworth cope with the heartbreak of Vancouver while providing her with some well-earned leisure.

Another aspect of Hollingsworth’s life that provides her with great happiness is her role with the Passion for Excellence (P4E) program. As an ambassador for P4E, she is part of a group of athletes that visits classrooms and graduating classes in Alberta, sponsored by the Dilawri Automotive Group, sharing their stories of inspiration and character. The chance to listen to her story is one in which any individual can obtain the belief that they can accomplish their dreams. While Hollingsworth’s career is testament to the fact that one must remain dedicated and have the ability to weather the storms that may cross one’s path, the reward at the end is well worth it.

Hollingsworth recognized as one of Canada’s finest women by Flare Magazine (Image obtained from:

Hollingsworth recognized as one of Canada’s finest women by Flare Magazine (Image obtained from:

For Hollingsworth’s fans and Canadian sports aficionados, the effort she has displayed in qualifying for her third Winter Games is one of the true feel good stories of the year. While unfinished business may be the theme of her ambitions at Sochi, another may be closure. Regardless of her finish, the ability to pick herself up after a heartbreaking loss in Vancouver and strive for Sochi proves that one can never truly give up. One may get knocked down or encounter obstacles, but eventually one arrives. While a podium finish, especially golden would bring her full circle, one could not dispute that her career is a backdrop to the meaning of the word resiliency, making her a champion for so many.

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