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True meaning of athletics revealed

Crispin Duenas praises athletes, shares his philosophy at the 2009 Town Crier’s Athlete of the Year ceremony

SURE SHOT: Olympic archer Crispin Duenas shares the same sports philosophy as PGA golfer Tiger Woods: never give up, even when you succeed in achieving your goals. He added it’s not the journey’s end but the journey itself that’s most important to an athlete. (FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER)

Olympic archer Crispin Duenas is jealous — of high school students.

That’s what he told a room full of them at the 23rd annual Town Crier Athlete of the Year awards breakfast on June 16.

Nearly 100 people packed EDO sushi restaurant on Eglinton Ave. West to celebrate the achievements of the best student-athletes from across the city.

Duenas was on hand to share what he’d learned on his way to becoming one of the world’s best archers. He helped the Canadian team finish 11th at the 2008 Beijing Games, its best-ever showing.

“I never got one of these when I was in high school so I’m kind of jealous of you guys,” he said before the awards were handed out. “There’s no trophies or plaques in my room, just memories.”

A sympathetic “Awww” was the response from the gathered athletes, coaches and parents.

“That’s okay,” Duenas replied through rising laughter. “I have the Olympic ring to prove that I went to the Olympics, so that’s fine.”

More than 90 of the city’s top athletes from nearly 50 schools were nominated by their coaches as being worthy of Athlete of the Year consideration.

Though all received hardware, the Overall Winner trophy was given to North Toronto’s Madeleine Cummings.

Four others took home top regional awards: North (Geoff Chandler from Don Mill’s CI), West (Humberside’s Tessa Jourdain), East (Alice Li from Riverdale CI) and Central (Sir Sanford Fleming’s Reece Hall).

“You guys are here for one specific purpose and that’s because your school thinks you’re great,” Duenas said. “Look around you right now. There’s representatives from I don’t know how many schools that have accomplished a lot.

“You guys are definitely the cream of the crop from your schools.”

EDO restuarant owner Barry Chaim agreed.

“You all are incredible athletes,” he said. “I commend you all. I congratulate you all.”

Like all of the award finalists in the room, Chaim was a successful high school athlete, though that wasn’t always the case.

“When I was in high school (in Montreal), I played basketball,” he said. “In grade 9, I was a very, very weak 6-foot-3 nobody.”

But he persevered, he said, and got better on the court through hard work.

“When I was in grade 11, I was a city all-star,” Chaim said. “Then I went on to McGill and played at McGill University.”

Perseverance, Duenas said, is one of the hallmarks of a great athlete.

After failing to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team in 2004, Duenas said he could have given up and many would have congratulated him on taking his best shot.

“My attitude behind this was that I didn’t make it in 2004, what am I going to do to make in 2008?” he said. “I thought, ‘Okay, let’s start training’.”

But after qualifying for the Beijing Olympics he refused to rest on his laurels.

“My attitude towards this was, ‘Now that I’m on this team, I’m going to train harder than I’ve ever trained before’,” he said. “It was kind of a hard life but I knew that in the end there was something waiting for me.”

It was the journey, rather than winning, that was his real success, he said.

“Some of you might make it to the Olympics, some of you might make it to world championships, some of you might take sport out of your life after you get out of high school,” Duenas said. “It’s not what lies at the end of (your journey), it’s how you take everything on the way to the end.

“If you keep this in mind through the whole of your life, you can accomplish great, great things.”

Town Crier
Online: July 23, 2009 [link]