WIMBLEDON -- It was Canada Day yesterday and three Canadian tennis players were
thinking about the thrill of representing our country.
Not only here at the staid All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, but
also in the Olympic Games in Sydney next September.
The trio -- Sonya Jeyaseelan, Sebastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor -- come
from different ethnic backgrounds, but all three are proud Canadians.
Jeyaseelan was born in New Westminster, B.C., of an Indian father and Sri
Lankan mother. Sebastien, from Boucherville, Que., is a French Canadian, and
Daniel was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
However, all three are unanimous in their desire to wear a maple leaf and
march in the opening parade behind the Canadian flagbearer into the Olympic
"I know I'll be able to play in the ladies doubles, but I hope I can also
qualify for the singles as a wild card," Jeyaseelan said. "My wish is to be
able to remain in Sydney for the two weeks, representing Canada.
"In order to be well prepared, I'll return from here to Florida for four
weeks to train with my coach in preparation for the U.S. Open and Sydney. My
ultimate goal is to be No. 1 in Canada and in the top 50 in the world. Right
now, I think I'm No. 79."
Lareau was even more emphatic about wanting to represent Canada in the
Olympics. His eyes lit up when I asked him about his hopes for Sydney.
"It was I who convinced Danny (Nestor) to split up with his partner Mark
Knowles, while I split with my partner Alex O'Brien, in order to play with
Danny in the Olympics," said Lareau. "It won't be easy, but we've had success
in the past."
Indeed, he and Nestor won tournaments in Sydney and Shanghai and made it to
the quarter-finals at the French Open and semifinals in this year's Queen's
Club tournament here in London.
"We didn't do well in the last Olympics at Atlanta in 1996, but we're
hopeful to come away with a medal of some colour from the Sydney Games."
figured Lareau. " It's a special feeling to represent Canada in the Olympics.
I think all athletes should feel the same way. It's an honour to represent
Nestor was just as enthusiastic about playing in the Olympics with Lareau.
"I'm looking forward to Sydney," he said. "It's a rare feeling to be able
to represent your country. Sebastien and I have a reasonably good chance for a
medal, but we have to play some matches between now and Sydney. We can't rely
on past successes.
"In the Atlanta Olympics, I played with Grant Connell and I got sick. I
should have pulled out, but I guess I was too selfish and eager to play in the
Games. Hopefully, this time Sebastien and I will do better."
I certainly felt better hearing three young Canadians speaking so proudly
about wanting to represent their country. It made me feel particularly good on