Victoria's Wendy Pethick named top Canadian sports scientist by Own the Podium

Only the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, not the humidity. That still awaits.

Canadian athletes can thank Wendy Pethick if they acclimatize well to the 30-plus degree summer temperatures expected next year in Japan for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Plus One Olympics and Paralympics.

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The manager of the Canadian Sport Centre-Pacific’s performance lab, located at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on the Camosun College Interurban campus, has been named Canada’s sport scientist of the year for 2020 by Own the Podium.

The award, inaugurated in 2019, is in its second year. There were five nominees. Pethick, a physiologist, was honoured this week during the annual Own the Podium Sport Innovation Summit. The summit was conducted virtually this year. Own the Podium is the program created in 2004 with the goal of elevating more Canadian athletes to Olympic and Paralympic podiums. It is funded primarily by the federal government with additional money provided by the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Olympic Foundation and Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Pethick is considered a world leader in the study of thermoregulation, the process by which the body retains its core internal temperature. In terms of the Summer Games, it basically involves keeping an athlete’s body temperature moderated in hot conditions. Pethick has a breadth of knowledge and teaching experience in physiology, exercise physiology and in measuring and evaluating in those areas. Her work is transferable beyond just sports and she has also been involved in projects with the RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard and B.C. Forestry Service.

“Wendy is a real unsung hero of Canadian sport [study and preparation],” said Andy Van Neutegem of Victoria, the director of performance sciences, research and innovation for Own the Podium.

“Her work is very important with Tokyo coming up. She is a very deserving winner of this award.”

Up to 75 of the Canadian athletes expected to compete next summer in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are based on the Island, and Pethick has worked with most of them, with especially close ties to the rowers, triathletes and wheelchair rugby players.

The University of Victoria exercise physiology masters graduate is not a bad athlete herself. Pethick has placed in the top-10 in the women’s 55-plus age group in the New York, Chicago and Berlin marathons.

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