Nova Scotia

3 Maritimers on Canada's athletics team for Olympics in Tokyo

Geoff Harris, Sarah Mitton and Geneviève Lalonde will be part of Canada's athletics delegation at the Tokyo Olympics.

'Maritimers are a special breed and their kindness and generosity is just like a warm blanket around you'

Hand sanitizers and signs for COVID-19 countermeasures are placed at the entrance of the fitness centre at the multi-function complex of the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Three Maritimers — two athletes and a coach — will be part of Canada's athletics team heading to this summer's Olympics in Tokyo.

Athletics Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee announced the remaining members of the delegation on Saturday.

Halifax's Geoff Harris will go as a coach after running in the 800 metres, placing 17th overall, in London in 2012. He retired from competition in 2016.

Harris, 34, said he is looking forward to an "amazing experience" approaching the Games from the other side of the fence. 

"As an athlete you get taken care of and that's sort of the whole point," he said.

"That's why the staff is there, to really take away all of those stressors or anxieties that might get in the way. "

Harris said he is proud to be a Nova Scotia Olympian, noting that the province gave him the career that he had as an athlete. 

Canada's Geoff Harris, centre, competes in the men's 800-metre semifinal at Olympic Stadium during the Summer Olympics in London in 2012. (The Canadian Press)

Having to extend training by an extra year because of the pandemic was a problem, he said. Trainers work on a four-year cycle to ensure that the athletes are at their peak at the end of the period. 

Harris said another issue was the number of races that were cancelled, leaving athletes with fewer opportunities to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team.

Geneviève Lalonde of Moncton will compete in the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase.

It's her second bite at the Olympic apple, having competed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

She said her first experience was "phenomenal and she is thrilled to be "chasing another Olympic dream."

Geneviève Lalonde of Moncton, N.B., seen in this file photo from August, won the Canadian cross-country championships senior women's 10K race. (The Associated Press)

She agrees with Harris that the cancellations of so many competitions during the pandemic was a challenge, but said her training partners and team were able to simulate the competitions. 

Lalonde, 29, said it was comforting knowing that she has all of the Maritimes cheering her on.

"Maritimers are a special breed and their kindness and generosity is just like a warm blanket around you," Lalonde said. 

She said she is grateful for the opportunity to show kids in the region that they can still dream big and achieve their dreams.

Pandemic measures will mean that the Tokyo Olympics will be unlike previous Games.

Harris said the 2021 experience will be "unique" with athletes kept isolated until their competition and unable to participate in the opening or closing ceremonies. 

"Most of the athletes will just travel in right before their race, do their race and then leave right away," he said.

He doesn't believe it will take too much away from the Olympic experience as athletes will still be representing their country in the national colours at the highest level. 

Lalonde said the competition will remain the same but she will miss having her family and friends supporting her at the Games.

"I myself am going to miss being able to hug my husband, my parents at the end of the finish line," she said.

Seen here in February 2020, Nova Scotia's Sarah Mitton says she is more ready for the Tokyo Games now than she was in 2020. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters/File)

Shot putter Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, Queens County will appear in her first Olympics. The 25-year-old Mitton was sixth in the women's shot put at the 2019 Pan Am Games.

She kept up her training throughout the pandemic and said she is more ready now for the Games than she was in 2020.

She doesn't think the high temperatures in Tokyo will be a challenge for her as she likes the heat.

She said she is looking forward to representing the Maritimes.

"My whole athletic career as a kid and up until university all developed out of there and I have a lot of really special connections to the East Coast, of course," she said Sunday from Toronto.

"So to be able to go and represent everyone who supported me in the community that's been there [for me] is huge."

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