It’s an Olympic year for the two-decade Lakeshore Christmas tradition.
Canadian Olympians trampolinist Jason Burnett and rhythmic gymnast Anastasiya Muntyanu will be the grand marshals of this year’s Etobicoke-Lakeshore Christmas Parade.
Santa Claus will join Etobicoke’s two Olympic athletes in the 22nd annual parade when it winds it way along Lakeshore from Dwight Avenue in Mimico to Thirty-Sixth Street in Long Branch on Saturday, Dec. 1 starting at 10 a.m.
Burnett and Muntyanu and hundreds of Canadian Olympic athletes learned on Wednesday the Canadian Olympic Committee will be doubling support of its athletes over the next four years, thanks to an injection of $100 million, most of which comes from Canadian corporate donors, committee president Marcel Aubut said.
“Athletes and coaches are at the center of everything we do. With this new funding, we are strengthening our sports system for today and tomorrow,” Aubut said Wednesday in a statement. “With the incredible support of our private sector marketing partners, we are set to redefine the trajectory of sport in this country. Together we are just beginning to write the next chapter of the Canadian Olympic Team story.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee is funded almost exclusively by the private sector, a testament to the value of sport in Canada, the committee said.
Canada is coming off an 18-medal performance at the 2012 London Games, where it won one gold medal.
“That’s amazing,” Muntyanu said Wednesday of the unprecedented funding boost. “I think it will make a huge difference. Most sports are self-funded. The athletes pay themselves. This will help athletes pursue their dreams.”
Parade officials are also seeking a boost. Some 50 banner carriers are earnestly needed for the parade route. Volunteers would start at Second Street School at 9 a.m. and be finished by noon that day.
More than 200 students will take part in the parade wearing costumes from Cinderella and elves to toy soldiers and giant mice. Both costumed participants and students volunteers who carry sponsors’ banners in front of bands and floats receive community service hours.
As a marshal, Muntyanu is returning to the popular parade she enjoyed as a child.
“I was so excited to get that email asking me to be a marshal in the parade,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s an amazing opportunity. When I was small, I’d go to the parade with my parents. It was always fun. Christmas is my favourite holiday. Now I get to be part of it, which is unbelievable.”
She hopes to inspire children to pursue their dreams.
“I want to give back to my community for all the support they’ve given me,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience for me to talk to little kids. I want to inspire them to follow their dreams, to tell them they can achieve anything with hard work.”
Muntyanu made her Olympic debut at the London Games this summer. The Canadian rhythmic gymnastics team finished 11th in London 2012. It was the first time Canada competed at the Olympic Games in the group event, which made its debut at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Born in Ukraine, the Bishop Allen Academy graduate is now studying life sciences at the University of Toronto with dreams of becoming a sports doctor to give back to the sporting community.
Burnett was the defending Olympic silver medalist in men’s trampoline from the Beijing Olympics when a fall in the finals at this summer’s Games kept Burnett off the podium. His routine was slated to have had the highest degree of difficulty in the world.
Burnett jumps a soaring 25 feet into the air to perform his aerial acrobatics, somersaults and twists. But on his second jump in the Aug. 3 finals, the defending Olympic silver medalist crashed.
“When you’re jumping so high, minor mistakes are magnified,” the 25-year-old Etobicoke man said in an interview of his slight over-rotation that day. “It was pretty disappointing, obviously. It wasn’t a dangerous fall. I was shocked at the time. I thought I was still in it. Then I watched my teammate Rosie MacLennan take the gold medal the next day. That was time for celebration.”
Burnett is also celebrating his role in the upcoming parade.
“I’m pretty excited to do it,” he said. “I was in the Olympic heroes’ parade that went from Ottawa to downtown Toronto. It was a really cool experience for me. All the athletes were there. It’s wonderful to have all the public support.”
Asked if the degree of difficulty demanded of Olympic trampoline routines is creating danger in the sport, Burnett said no.
“The Chinese are pushing the degree of difficulty, as am I myself,” he said. “I feel very confident that me pushing the degree of difficulty makes up for my form and control.”
Next month, Burnett will undergo surgery and six to eight weeks recovery to remove a plate and some screws in his leg, implanted after he broke his leg in 2010. A small bracket and a half a screw in his ankle will remain, but won’t likely affect his performance, he said.
To volunteer at the Santa Claus parade, register via email to firstname.lastname@example.org