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Friday, July 14, 2000
Sutton always feels Canadian pride

By HUGH TOWNSEND -- Halifax Chronicle-Herald

 Mike Sutton, like the late Hank Snow sang about in one of his old hits, has been everywhere, man.

 Everywhere, that is, but a Summer Olympics. But now, in September, the 41-year-old Halifax physiotherapist will have that experience, too, as part of Canada's medical team in Sydney, Australia.

 "It's the first Summer Olympics I've gone to," Sutton says. "But I have done many international competitions, Winter Olympics (in Calgary), Francophone Games, Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games, University Games, and I've done many of those multiple times.

 "I've been to many world championships. I was with the national track and field team in Australia, with the national gymnastics team at world championships in Puerto Rico, in China, in Japan. The list goes on. And I've been involved in a lot of world championships that were held in Canada. Here in Nova Scotia, for example, the world canoeing championships and the world figure skating championships. I've been the chief therapist for Canada at many of those Games around the world, but this is the first time I'll actually be doing Summer Olympics."

 It fulfills a dream.

 "It'll be the same type of workload, but a slightly different environment. The Summer Olympics is sort of the top of the ladder, so to speak. So it'll be another accomplishment, another summit.

 "My dream was to work at a Summer Olympics, so it is sort of an achievement from that point of view. Some of the events I've been at may have had more countries involved, more athletes involved, but the Summer Olympics still have the prestige of being the big international sporting event of the world."

 Despite everywhere he's been, there's nothing routine about it. There is still a thrill.

 "There's still very much a high. I don't think it will ever get routine. I love working with elite athletes. They have a motivation, they want to get back into play the best they can. There's pressure for us to get them back the best we can.

 "There's travel to foreign countries. Mind you, what you do inside of four walls in Canada, you can do inside of four walls anywhere in the world. It's the same sort of thing. But there's just something different about trying to help our athletes do something for Canada."

 Professional duties limit how much actual competition he sees, but Sutton never loses the excitement of where he is.

 "There are times when you burn the candle at both ends and in the middle just to get all the work done. We have to perform 24 hours a day for the full length of the event. But there may be times when things slow down and you can get out and see some events."

 In Sydney, he'll be working with the Canadian men's and women's gymnastics teams, as well as the sailing team and rhythmic gymnasics team.

 Just like athletes and fans, though, Sutton gets caught up in the patriotic side of international competitions.

 "That's probably the most important part of it all. To be able to walk into an opening ceremony with thousands of screaming audience, and you're wearing the Canadian uniform, and the Canadian flag is flying, and the anthem is playing, it's such a proud moment.

 "If anybody wants to feel pride in their country, to travel with a national team and go to an opening event is where you'll feel it. Even to be there when the Canadian flag is raised when a Canadian wins a medal, you feel so proud. You stick out your chest and say, 'Hey, it's my country!' It's a really neat feeling."

 Closer to home, Sutton has been involved professionally with many local teams, from hockey's Nova Scotia Voyageurs, Nova Scotia Oilers, Halifax Citadels and Halifax Mooseheads, to basketball's Halifax Windjammers, to soccer's Nova Scotia Clippers.

 "It's kept us busy, but that's part of the fun of what I enjoy doing. I chose physiotherapy as my profession, and I love what I do, and every time an opportunity comes along to have some fun while you're working, you can't complain.

 "We're very lucky to have a lot of international and national events happen here on the East Coast and it's nice to be involved with them, even on a local level. We have the world marathon canoe championships at the end of August, we've got the national paddling championships. Every year there are two or three major events going on that we get involved with. It makes work a little more fun."

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