Several local athletes benefit from Ontario government’s ‘Quest for Gold’ program

September 25, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown

Orangeville residents Isaac Heslinga and Mike McCannell have become recipients of the Quest for Gold program, a provincial funding initiative that supports promising athletes. 

“I was super surprised. I had no intentions  (of winning), I just applied because it’s something new to apply for and it would be cool if I got it, but I didn’t expect to get it,” said Heslinga, who received the funding in 2019 and 2020. “When I got it, I was super pumped.” 

Heslinga, a volleyball player, and McCannel, who plays lacrosse, are two of the 15 recipients from Dufferin-Caledon that received the funding. The program looks to support Ontario athletes on their “quest for gold” at national and international competitions. Local athletes in Dufferin-Caledon that received the funding include those in freestyle skiing, bobsleigh, sledge hockey, gymnastics, golf, rugby, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, and athletics. 

Isaac Heslinga began his volleyball career in elementary school through a school-based team, later going on the join A.C.T.S Elite based in Dufferin-Peel. 

“That’s kind of where my passion for volleyball started,” said Heslinga. 

From there he went on to play with the Aurora Storm, where the team he played for placed fourth in the Ontario championships and later won Division I Nationals in Edmonton. He was later selected for the u16 Youth National Team, and in January 2019 was selected to play on the Team Ontario Elite – consisting of the best players in Ontario. Part of the 2020 Team Ontario Elite, Heslinga planned to go to Poland for a national tournament, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heslinga now plays for the University of Alberta. 

As a lacrosse player, Mike McCannell, made his way up through the Orangeville Minor Lacrosse system, going from Junior B to Junior A. In 2016, playing with the Orangeville Northmen, he won the Founders Cup and Team Ontario Field Championship. A senior in university, McCannell for the last four years, has played at Stony Brook University, a Division 1 institution in New York. Last year, McCannell, with the Orangeville Northmen, won the 2019 Minto Cup in British Columbia. 

“It was pretty amazing. Definitely a childhood dream of mine,” said McCannell. 

The Ontario government for 2020 has provided $6.36 million to directly financially assist 1,438 high-performance athletes. Financial assistance consists of offsetting costs of training, living expenses such as rent, cost to attend training camps, equipment, and tuition or education expenses. 

“The Quest for Gold program provides much needed funding and support to our athletes, so that they can continue pursuing their dreams on an international stage,” said MPP Sylvia Jones for Dufferin-Caledon.

With the numerous tournaments, Heslinga says that it can become costly, and that the funding is a relief from those expenses.

“It definitely adds up when you add club, provincial, and national team costs,” said Heslinga. 

The cost benefit of the program was also echoed by McCannell. 

“It’s a really nice opportunity that if you can apply and get selected, you get payment to go towards your schooling, housing and anything related to your sport,” said McCannell. “Which is a really big deal.” 

Previous recipients of the Quest for Gold program include past Olympic Medalists Penny Olesksiak, Andre De Grasse, and Gabrielle Daleman. From the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics, 34 of the 43 Ontario athletes that medaled were previous Quest for Gold athletes. 

“It’s a big opportunity that you’ve got to take advantage of and make the most of it, because it can help you develop as a player,” said McCannell.

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