Ottawa-Gatineau Olympians to watch in Sochi

Caroline Calvé (pictured), Cody Sorensen, Dawn McEwen, Perianne Jones, Ivanie Blondin and Vincent De Haître will all be competing at the 2014 Sochi Games Olympics beginning this week.

Here’s a closer look at the six Ottawa-area athletes representing Canada in bobsledding, curling, cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

(Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Bobsledder Cody Sorensen: Following in his father's footsteps


Cody Sorensen might be following in his father's footsteps by heading to an Olympic games, but their sports are far from similar.

"Cody is a hurdling truck," said Cody's father Ole Sorensen. "I was a nasty string bean as an athlete."

Ole competed for Canada as a competitive wrestler at the Munich Games in 1972 and Cody is bound for Sochi as a member of the Canadian 4-man bobsleigh team.

While the two practice very different sports, Ole says some common traits made them both Olympic contenders.

"You have to be disciplined, controlled and calm. You have to train better than anyone else" said the former Olympian.

Cody's parents are heading to Russia to watch their son race, and Ole has one piece of advice for Cody and his team.

"Cody's team is smoking hot. But they'll have to be fiercely intense and execute perfectly to medal."

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Photo Credit: CP

Aylmer snowboarder Caroline Calvé: On a mission to a medal


There's a hill named in her honour at Mont Ste-Marie, and this month Caroline Calvé is on the cover of L'acutalité magazine.

Calvé came late to the sport, but at age 35, she's a snowboarding sensation.

Her Olympic debut in the Parallel Giant Slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Games was "by her own admission disappointing," said Caroline's mother Suzanne Fournier.

A not-so-dazzling performance through fog and drizzle put Calvé in 20th spot.

Since Vancouver, she has won three World Cup events and she finished the 2012-2013 season ranked third in the World Cup parallel standings. "She's been working with a sports psychologist. She's more focused and confident," said Fournier. "Perseverance has helped her attain her Olympic dream."

At the Sochi Games Calvé will have two chances to win medal, in what could be her final Olympics.

"This may be Caroline's last year competing," said Fournier. "She started a degree in kinesiology. Now she's considering a career in communications. But Sochi could change everything."

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Photo Credit: Felice Calabo/Associated Press

Curler Dawn McEwen: Ottawa's rock star


For Wayne and Jane Askin, the weeks leading up to the Sochi Games have been full of anxious anticipation.

In December their daughter, Dawn McEwen, won a coveted curling prize -- a ticket to the Olympics as the lead for Winnipeg curler Jennifer Jone's rink.

"It's the only thing missing on her resume," said her father Wayne Askin. "And the team is on a mission. In the gym every day with personal trainers, sports psychologists."

Wayne Askin, who will be travelling with his wife oversees to watch Dawn compete, marvels at his daughter's world-class curling prowess.

"Dawn curls. I throw rocks with old cronies."

Askin plays twice a week in a seniors' league to stay in touch with Dawn's former coaches and teammates.

When Dawn's parents get back from Sochi they'll be leaving Ottawa for good. Her biggest boosters are moving west to be closer to the rock star they raised and rave about.

Photo Credit: John Woods/Canadian Press

Cross-country skier Perianne Jones: Pride of the Ottawa Valley


Perianne Jones is the pride of Mississippi Mills, a hometown hero in Almonte, Ont.

The community has followed and helped fund the cross-country sprinter's Olympic journey.

"We have baker Bob up on the main street who has been a dedicated supporter from day one," said Perianne's father Brad Jones. A former councillor raised money to put the municipal crest on Perianne's ski suit, and she wears it with pride.

"There's nothing better than to be sponsored by your hometown. Hopefully I can inspire a couple of kids to pursue their dreams because I'm just a kid from small-town Ontario. Nothing special," said the skier.

Jones started skiing not long after she learned to walk and her family shared her passion for the sport. "She'll be 29 at the end of this Olympics so that's 27 years of getting out on the trails, waxing skis, making lunches," said her father.

Last year, Perianne and Daria Gaiazova won a bronze medal at the World Cup team sprint in Sochi, a promising result on the road to the Olympics.

"That gave us a little bit of a taste of what it's like to be on the podium," said Jones.

Perianne's dad is hoping for a repeat performance. "They've done it once on that site. So with a little luck they'll find that magic formula again."

Photo Credit: Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Ivanie Blondin:  Long track speed skater

Ivanie Blondin's journey to the Olympics began with figure skating on a backyard rink, but she soon found a better fit. "I really had a need for speed and I was a huge tomboy," said Blondin. "The twists and twirls were fun but getting me in a dress was a little complicated."

She left home at 15 and moved to Montreal to train with the national short track team. Her first Olympic bid, for the Vancouver 2010 Games, ended in disappointment and she was ready to abandon her dream.

Knowing Ivanie's potential, her former coach at the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club, Mike Rivet, convinced her to persevere and pursue long track.

"You get to see these athletes in their lowest moments and their highest moments. It's their mental fortitude, the will to win, that gets them where they want to go," said Rivet. Blondin found her comfort zone training with the boys at Calgary's Olympic Oval.

"My training group is all men and me. They push me harder and I do faster lap times," said the 23-year-old distance skater. Blondin is now a four-time medalist in the team pursuit. She'll be competing in the 3000m and 5000m races in Sochi.

"Ill just go there and skate my heart out."

Photo Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Vincent De Haître: Long track speed skater


Vincent De Haître is skating in the fast lane, making his Olympic debut four years earlier than expected. He's only 19 years old.

"It feels pretty unreal. I would have said my goal is to make the 2018 Olympic Games," said De Haître. " To make it this young and so soon I feel like I'm on the right track." Mike Rivet isn't surprised. The Gloucester Concordes' coach knew Vincent was a winner from day one.

"He's strong minded, an amazing athlete. He has an uncanny ability to push through the pain and he does extremely well under pressure, which is rare at his age," said Rivet. Winning the 1000m and finishing third in the 1500m at the Olympic trials earned Vincent a spot on the long track speed skating team.

"It took our breath away," said his mother Lucille De Haître. "We're so proud of him." The rising speed skating star is going to Sochi on a mission, not to win a medal, but to try and match the podium performances of his peers at the next Olympics.

"My first goal is to learn as much as I can for future reference, see how others prepare and cope with the stress," said De Haître. "In terms of goals for performance I'll be satisfied with finishing in the top half of the group really.

Photo Credit: CBC