Ahead Of The Field

Call them feisty, dynamic— and certain to excel

July 1 1997

Ahead Of The Field

Call them feisty, dynamic— and certain to excel

July 1 1997

Ahead Of The Field


The Competitors

Call them feisty, dynamic— and certain to excel

Their spirit transcends athletics. True, some excel in the heated battle of the rink or ring, or seek perfection in the gentle rhythms of the links. But the same drive imbues the business women struggling to make their mark in male-dominated fields, actors finding stardom despite the odds, politicians combating the forces of business as usual. Never mind whether they win or lose: for the true competitor, the reward is in the game itself.

Christina Thé

MODEL She was a happy-go-lucky 11-year-old, quite literally a face in the crowd at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition when she was discovered. “I was approached by a teacher from a modelling school,” the Toronto teen recalls. “She told me I might have a future in the business.” Two years later, that prediction is looking secure. One of the “five hot new faces” on the June cover of Seventeen magazine, Thé recently won a coveted contract with Cover Girl cosmetics that put her on television and may well propel her into the top ranks of supermodels. “The whole thing is all very new and exciting for me right now,” says the A-plus Grade 8 student, the only child of parents who immigrated to Canada from Indonesia 20 years ago. Still a month shy of her 14th birthday, Christina admits that, despite the glamor, she sometimes has doubts about her nascent career. “I’ve been thinking a bit about whether this is really what I want to do with my life,” she muses. “After all, you can’t do it forever.”

John Curkan

OIL EXECUTIVE In Alberta’s booming oil and gas sector, Curkan, 34, finds himself at the centre of the action. As a vice-president of Renaissance Energy of Calgary, Curkan heads up the marketing division for one of Canada’s most dynamic energy companies. Since deregulation of the gas market in 1986, Renaissance has seized the opportunity to become a leader in the direct marketing of natural gas. “By controlling gas from the wellhead to the burner, we believe that we’re in control of our destiny,” says Curkan. The business has been part of Curkan’s life for as long as he can remember: growing I up in Olds, Alta., he watched his d father, John Sr., toil in the I “upstream” operations as a field I engineer; as a teenager, his dad d found him summer jobs. “My > aptitude for the business comes I from him,” says Curkan. “He taught 1 me a lot.” So much, in fact, that I Curkan is considered one of the l bright lights in a hot industry.

David Cubitt

ACTOR He will always remember what his teachers said more than a decade ago—just before they kicked him out of acting school. “They told me that I couldn’t act,” recalls Cubitt, “and wouldn’t ever act.” But what did they know? Recovering splendidly from those early bad reviews, the Vancouver-raised Cubitt has gone on to become one of the bright young lights of Canadian television. No overnight success story here: Cubitt has been doing mostly minor roles in Canadian film and TV for the past decade. But with his portrayal of brash, take-no-prisoners investment banker Jack Larkin on the critically acclaimed Traders—earning him last year’s Gemini for best performance by an actor in a dramatic TV series—Cubitt, 32, has come into his own. Next season, he will be even more visible: besides Traders, he will co-star in the CBC TV movie Major Crime, and appear in CBS’s Michael Hayes—likely to be one of the fall’s most-watched shows, since it marks the return to TV of NYPD Blue’s David Caruso. And along the road to stardom, Cubitt has chalked up another notable achievement: he’s known countrywide as a homegrown hunk.

What does he think about his status as Canada’s own male sex symbol? “I used to know what that term meant,” he says, laughing. “But when applied to me,

I no longer know what it means.”

Alexandre Le Siège

CHESS PLAYER Le Siège will argue that, apart from high intelligence, absolute concentration and nerves of steel, what a great chess player needs most is plenty of free time to practise. “Distractions—a girlfriend, a job—are out,” the 21-year-old Montrealer firmly declares. “Chess must be your only passion.” That single-minded devotion, applied since Le Siège was 9, has brought handsome rewards. At 15, he won the 1991 Quebec provincial championship; one year later, he was Canadian chess champion, the youngest ever. Now, he stands on the threshold of becoming only the fourth Canadian—and first francophone—to become an international grandmaster, an exclusive global club of approximately 300 active players. While he acknowledges that “as you get older it becomes more difficult to make the sacrifices,” Le Siège still has time to make it into the top 20. “I’ve been told 30 is the ideal age for chess,” he says, “so I still have lots of time.”

Lorie Kane

GOLFER At 32, she is competing in her first full season on the high-profile Ladies Professional Golfers Association Tour, but she is already making her mark. In 14 tournaments, Kane had won $196,727 and was the leading Canadian (22nd overall) on the money list in mid-June.

She took the True North route to the top ranks: after attending Acadia University, she competed for Canada as an amateur at international events, and when she first turned pro, she played the domestic du Maurier Series. Like the other 10 Canadians on tour, Kane most wants to win the national championship—

« the du Maurier Ltd.

=S Classic—at Glen Abbey ° Golf Club in Oakville,

Ont., in August. She has already been tested under pressure, notably in April at the Susan G. Komen International, where she flirted with the lead but finished second. “I was in the driver’s seat, and I let a couple of things get to me,” Kane says. “But I learned from that and I’ll remember the next time.”

William Hubloo

HOCKEY PLAYER By the standards of professional hockey, the 18-year-old Inuk from Kuujjuaq, Que., is small: five feet, seven inches tall and 170 lb. soaking wet. And he was 10 before he laced on his first pair of skates. But Hubloo, who aims to be the first Inuk to play in the National Hockey League, has become the first of his people to reach junior A-level hockey. Playing with the Charlottetown Abbies this past season, Hubloo racked up an impressive 39 goals and 41 assists. When he’s not playing hockey, Hubloo is a police officer in Kuujjuaq, and he has become something of a role model. “I take that very seriously,” he says. “I eventually want to be a positive force for good in my community.” In the meantime, however, he is heading for training camp with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior A Hockey League in August. After that, who knows?

Michael de Jong

POLITICIAN Already a veteran of the British Columbia legislature at 33, de Jong acknowledges that “there is a generational component” to his political involvement. Born and raised in the rural Fraser Valley, his first venture into politics came within a year of being called to the B.C. bar: in 1990, de Jong won a seat on the local school board. “I felt, hey, here’s an opportunity to offer something back that people who are 50 or 60 can’t.” When a byelection was called in his provincial riding four years later, de Jong’s conviction that Canadians want smaller governments with decisions made closer to the grassroots prompted him to seek the Liberal nomination. He won the seat and retained it in last year’s provincial general election. Since then, he has won respect for his effectiveness in the B.C. legislature as his party’s critic on aboriginal affairs—a high-profile role in a province facing native claims to 106 per cent of its land mass. And despite the public’s low esteem for politicians, de Jong described his job as the best one he can imagine: “It is just incredibly interesting. Each and every day, I think how lucky I am." With an attitude like that, de Jong may just help change the public's negative view.

Jonathon Power

SQUASH PLAYER Despite being Canada’s top-ranked competitor and No. 4 worldwide, 22-year-old Power is better known abroad than in Canada. He is not complaining: the native of Comox, B.C., who now lives in Toronto, earns a six-figure living without the intrusive trappings of fame. As a teenager, he would mimic the top pros, but he has developed a hybrid style all his own. “You would never coach someone to play like me,” he says, laughing. “But it works.” Last season, Power won four Professional Squash Association titles, including the Tournament of Champions in New York. This summer, he hopes to rehabilitate a nagging back injury and prepare for an assault on his ultimate goal—unseating Jansher Khan of Pakistan as No. 1 in the world. “It will take everything I’ve got, but I think it’s possible,” he says. “Hopefully, I can do something to raise the profile of the sport in Canada. It’s a great game.”

Wei Chen

NEWSCASTER In an immigrant family like Chen’s, freshly arrived in Hamilton from Taiwan, children were taught that the only acceptable professions to aspire to were medicine, law or business. But when she and her Grade 8 class produced a public affairs special for the local cable channel, she recalls, “I was hooked.” Still, it took dropping out of her studies at the University of Toronto to convince her parents that her weekend job as a writer-producer at Hamilton’s CHCH TV was her real vocation. Now, at 32, after apprenticeships at CFPL TV in London, Ont., and Calgary’s CBRT, Chen, the newscaster on Canada A.M., is being touted as CTV’s rising star—pegged for the morning anchor slot on the private network’s all-news channel due to debut on Sept. 8.

She insists that high profile is not the chief lure of network news. “Anchoring is not the be-all and end-all for me,” says Chen, who hopes for more reporting spots as well. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved telling stories.”

Sonya Jeyaseelan

TENNIS PLAYER She has yet to crack the top 100 on the Corel Women’s Tennis Association Tour rankings, but Jeyaseelan may already be number 1 in nicknames. “In South America, they call me Señorita Electrica,” says the native of New Westminster, B.C, sounding a little embarrassed. “I guess it’s because I’m pretty excitable on the court.” The hard-hitting 21-year-old moved from Bradenton, Fla., to Toronto last winter to work with coach Wendy Pattenden, captain of Canada’s Fed Cup

team, and the change paid off immediately. Jeyaseelan has boosted her world singles ranking to 121 from 170 and, in May, qualified for her first French Open. Before the year is out, the young woman with the irrepressible smile hopes to challenge Patricia Hy-Boulais as Canada’s number 1 player. “It took me a while to know what my own dreams were and what I was capable of,” she says. “Now, I am enjoying myself more on the court, and my results keep getting better.”

Kelli Fox

ACTOR For nine years, she struggled along in Vancouver, getting bit parts in American cop shows and “miseries of the week,” (as Fox calls movies of the week) and doing her best with a small theatre company. “I finally just decided I couldn’t do it any more,” recalls 33-year-old Fox, who was born in Chilliwack, B.C. “I needed to work for somebody who had a play, and a director, and a staff, so all I had to be was an actor.” What she really wanted was a job at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and three years ago, she moved. “I figured if they didn’t have to buy me a plane ticket, I might stand a better chance of getting a job,” Fox says. “And lo and behold, it worked.” This summer, the eloquent young actor is in her third season at the acclaimed festival, bringing a versatility and sensitivity to her roles that have made her one of the bright young stars of Canadian theatre.

For Fox, making a name for herself has been doubly important: she is, after all, the younger sister of Hollywood star Michael J. Fox. “There was a time when I felt like I was struggling to establish myself on my own terms,” she says. “I’m now beginning to feel like I’ve done that.” In fact, observing Michael’s career has helped Fox define her own ambitions. She wants to do more film and TV work (she appeared in the 1996 madefor-TV movie adaptation of Atlantic author David Adams Richards’s For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down), but she is not interested in moving to the United States. “I’d just as soon tell Canadian stories,” says Fox, who just bought a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “If I stay in Canada and do that, I’ll never have to build a fortress around my home or worry about my kids leaving the house— things that Michael has to worry about all the time.”

Jayson Dénommée

FIGURE SKATER He is going into the most pressure-packed year of his athletic life, armed with raw talent and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Take, for example, his rationale for ruling out coaching as a future career choice. “I used to think I might coach,” says the 20-year-old from Asbestos, Que. “But if I had many students like me, I wouldn’t last long.” Dénommée, who is studying human sciences in Montreal, is a late bloomer by skating standards, and he currently ranks below Elvis Stojko and Jeff Langdon in Canada. But insiders say Dénommée possesses a rare blend of athleticism and musicality, and he stands a good chance to qualify for Canada’s Olympic team bound for Nagano, Japan, in February. To do so, he needs good results at domestic and international competitions next fall—and, to help cope with the pressure, he is studying karate and kung fu. “I have to learn to be comfortable,” he says. “I do the jumps in practice, but sometimes in competition I get too stressed and over-rotate.” That is not always a bad thing. “At one competition, I nearly did the first quadruple axel ever,” he says. “But I was only trying for a triple.”

David Sévigny

BOXER Outside the ring, he is quiet and polite, even a little shy. But when the 18-year-old from Beauport, Que., slips between the ropes, his character undergoes a rapid transformation. The two-time Canadian juvenile champion, who won his third Golden Gloves title in May, has uncommon hand speed and punching power for a 156-lb. light middleweight. In fact, Sévigny has lost only “a handful” of amateur bouts since he began boxing at the age of 9. Now preparing to represent Quebec at the world francophone games in Madagascar in early fall, and possibly Canada at the next Olympics, he has set his sights on a professional career. “I’m an aggressive fighter who likes to take charge,” says Sévigny. “I’m just taking it one step at a time, but I don’t see why I couldn’t be world champion one day.”