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Salmon Arm para-athletes surprised to find each other competing on All-Round Champion

Maggie Manning and Lily Brook to host public premiere at Salmar Grand
Salmon Arm’s Lily Brook and Maggie Manning had an opportunity to compete in each other’s sport, adaptive boxing and sledge hockey, on season five of All-Round Champion. (Contributed)

A pair of inspiring Salmon Arm athletes look forward to finally sharing a summer project they took part in with the community.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Maggie Manning and Lily Brook will host a Salmon Arm premiere of episode 1, season five of All-Round Champion at the Salmar Grand. People are invited to join them in person, while watching them on the big screen as they compete with other athletes from Canada and the U.S. in the latest season of the Canadian reality TV show.

“Just having the community behind us has made a huge difference and we’re so excited to share this with everyone,” said Manning. “It was an incredible opportunity and super fun, and it had to be a big secret and now we can finally talk about it and share the experiences we’ve had.”

Filming took place last summer between June and August in Ontario. Manning said the journey there, for her, began with a text on Instagram from one of the show’s casting directors, who said they’d looked at Manning’s profile and thought she’d be a good candidate.

“I thought it was a scam…,” laughed Manning who, after a couple days, took a chance and replied. Soon after she submitted an application, did an interview and, about a month later, learned she would be season five’s sledge hockey player.

Brook credits her appearance on the show to fellow para-athlete Leo Sammarelli. The coach and Boxing BC/Canada rep for the adaptive boxing encouraged Brook to submit an application.

“I went into this not really knowing what to expect. I’ve never been on a TV show before or anything like it,” said Brook

It wasn’t until the first day of filming that Brook and Manning learned they’d both been chosen to be on the show.

“Neither of us had communicated with each other that we were cast on this because it was part of a non-disclosure agreement we’d signed,” explained Manning. “In the first episode – it just aired in the U.S. – we all meet each other on camera for the first time… I think we were both in shock, honestly, because what are the chances that two para athletes from the same small town manage to make it on the show?”

The two were also excited by the fact only para-athletes were chosen for season 5. Though both are skilled in multiple sports, Manning was selected for her sledge hockey experience and Brook for adaptive boxing.

“I think, for me, this is kind of a revolutionary season, just because they decided to cast all para-athletes, which is something nobody has ever done,” said Manning, an advocate for accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. “One of those things is representation in the media which is a really big thing… this is an incredible opportunity to further accessibility and inclusion by showing what it’s like to live with a disability.”

“That in itself was really amazing because even before the TV show, I was very much an advocate for people with disabilities,” commented Brook. “Going onto show I really felt I could help represent the para-community, and being with another group of people in a show dedicated to representing the para-community is just amazing, that it’s finally come to a stage where we are able to show ourselves, who we are and what we can do.”

Season five of All-Round Champion revolves around non-elimination competition, giving the athletes an opportunity to compete in each other’s sport.

Read more: National para-swimmer in Salmon Arm puts her energy into sledge hockey

Read more: Former Salmon Arm student raising awareness for people living with disabilities

Read more: Salmon Arm athlete helps BC Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team capture national trophy

Read more: Salmon Arm boxers go the distance for fundraiser

“When it becomes sledge hockey week, I become the coach and I teach all my fellow athletes in three days how to do the sport, and on that final day you have to compete in it,” said Manning. “It’s a typical podium where you have a gold, silver, bronze, and there’s additional points associated with the medal. By the end of the season, however many points you’ve racked up… that’s how you win All-Round Champion.”

Manning said the show is also about teamwork, with each of the participating athletes learning together.

“Doing everything together is a really unique situation so we really bonded together as a family,” said Manning.

The opportunity to try different sports was inspiring and rewarding for Manning and Brook.

“Oh my goodness, this summer I learned so much…,” said Brook. “The experience of being part of such a big sports competition was just amazing. I was competing in other people’s sports and learning so many different techniques that I can apply to my own sport, which I found to be very helpful…

“On top of that too I also made some amazing friends… It was pretty cool to be able to be with so many para-athletes who have a different set of skills.”

Being able to share and learn those skills boosted both Brook and Manning’s confidence in what they are capable of.

“I knew that my abilities to be a good athlete were there but for me, to grow my confidence and trust that I can do things that I thought maybe were not possible for me, or that were outside my comfort zone, that was probably the biggest thing I learned – how to push myself beyond what I thought was possible,” said Manning.

Doors for the Feb. 8 event at the Salmar Grand open at 4:30 p.m., with the show starting at 5. Entry is by donation and attendees can enter a draw for items worn by Manning and Brook during their All-Round Champion experience. Manning explained the funds will help support them in their athletic endeavours. There will be an after-party at 6 p.m. at Boston Pizza, with time to socialize and for Brook and Manning to share their experiences before drawing the names of the winners.

The show will be available in Canada in February on TVOKids and Youtube.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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