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Martin, Ellis receive $10,000 grants

Ski-cross racer, luger earn Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence awards

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A pair of Sea to Sky athletes received a huge boost to their competitive careers earlier this month.

Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus Mikayla Martin and Pemberton luger Trinity Ellis each received $10,000 Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence (FACE) Awards, which are facilitated by Petro-Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Martin and Ellis were two of 55 athletes in 40 sports across the country that received the grant for athletes who are expected to make up what's being dubbed Tomorrow's Team Canada.

Both athletes said the money would boost their seasons in a big way.

For Ellis, the grant will help ease some of the travel burdens for the coming season, especially if she cracks the national junior team and qualifies for events in Europe.

She said she didn't even know she'd been nominated until she'd won, but receiving the email with the good news was satisfying.

"I was like, 'Oh, no way!'" Ellis recalled. "I was pretty happy and pretty excited for that.

"It'll really help with my training and travel fees... It's a huge stress off of myself and my family's shoulders."

Ellis will head to Calgary in early October to train and race for her spot on the national team before returning to Whistler for more training.

"By early November, I'll know," she said about potentially making the team. "I'm excited. It's been a long summer and I'm ready to get back."

Martin, who recently moved to Calgary from Squamish after being named to the Alpine Canada NextGen ski-cross team in the spring, said the grant would play a major part in defraying her moving expenses.

"That grant helps me a lot with the financial side of things," she said. "The grant was a bit of a relief, too.

"Part of it will go towards the team fee and part of it will go towards moving to Calgary."

This will be Martin's first year of competitive ski-cross as she transitions from alpine racing. After attending the NextGen tryouts last spring and falling in love with the sport, Martin decided to pursue it full-time. It also had some other fringe benefits, as she was required to reside in Calgary, which gave her the chance to enter her first year of postsecondary education at the University of Calgary. Martin is currently in open studies, taking classes in economics, kinesiology and psychology.

Alongside that course load, she's doing two training sessions a day while "patiently waiting for the snow to fly." After training camps in Whistler and at Mount Hood, the athletes are continuing their work in the gym until Nakiska Mountain Resort opens for the season. Martin's first NorAm ski-cross race is slated for January, so she'll have plenty of time to prepare.

"I'm very new to the sport and haven't done any races. I don't really have any specific performance goals because I don't know where I stack up against my teammates and my competition," she said. "I went to the ski-cross camp in May and I was exhausted, but I loved it. Then it basically took off from there. A couple weeks later, I got a call and I was on the development team. It was a big decision to make whether I wanted to stay in alpine or not, but I'm happy with the switch. I think it's more my style and allows me to challenge myself."

Martin said the biggest changes she's working on have to do with strategy and jockeying that she didn't need to consider when it was just her against the clock.

Like Ellis, Martin knew little about the grant, saying Alpine Canada said they were nominating her but didn't think much of it until receiving word her application was successful.

The FACE grants have aided over 2,700 athletes to the tune of $10 million since they were launched in 1988. Past recipients include local ski-cross legend Marielle Thompson and other Olympic medallists like figure skater Patrick Chan and hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser.

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