It's a long way from small-town Alberta to the Olympic Games.
But the world is about to get a whole lot smaller for Ottawa fencer Sherraine Schalm.
When she steps into the women's epee competition this weekend in Sydney, she'll have completed a long, winding road that started in Brooks, Alta., and eventually led her to the city she now calls home.
"I remember watching the Olympics as a kid, and it seemed so distant and removed from where I was," Schalm, 25, says now. "There these people were on TV, doing a sport full-time. It was surreal to me seeing these people.
"I could never imagine being a part of it. Now, it seems so normal to be a part of it."
Canada has never won a fencing medal in 21 previous Olympics of trying. But with a World Cup victory in Seville, Spain, in late May -- followed up by a bronze medal the next month in Cuba -- Schalm has stamped herself as a contender in Sydney.
Her coach, Manuel Guittet, believes it isn't outrageous to suggest Schalm could be the one to make Canadian history in Australia.
"Our objective (in Sydney) is to win the gold medal, and it is a realistic objective," said Guittet, the head coach for the Canadian fencing team at the Games.
"She will not be the favourite ... but I am confident that she can be there (as a top contender), hopefully on the podium or even on the highest step of the podium."
Schalm moved to Ottawa seven years ago to work with Guittet at the Ottawa Excalibur Club. She credits the Paris-born Guittet for giving her the necessary tools to compete at the highest international level.
"I was really lucky to find Manuel," said Schalm. "He knows how the top of the top of the world has to train to get to a certain level, so he's not afraid to tell me you're not doing enough, get on it."
Now, Schalm, a devout Christian, is gearing up for the fencing competition of her life.
"I'm so excited about fencing (in Sydney)," she said. "I wonder if I can pass the trial, if I can perform on the day I demand of myself.
"That's going to be the fun part for me. I'm the one out there (on the mat), and I want to see how I react."
-- ROB BRODIE
-- Ottawa Sun
Women's team foil: Julie Mahoney, Montreal. Sherraine Schalm, Brooks, Alta., and Jujie Luan, Edmonton, lost 45-15 to Ukraine in first round, eliminated.
Sherraine Schalm, Brooks, Alta., lost 15-13 to Sangita Tripathi, France, eliminated.
2000 Games Fencing Coverage