Heather and Ed Tandy will be up in the wee hours, staring into their laptops as they cheer on daughter Megan, who will be competing in the PyeongChang, Korea – her third trip to the Olympics.
“I’m super excited, super proud,” says Heather. “I sometimes pinch myself. This is my daughter and we’ve watched her go through all the stages and then people say ‘she’s a three-time Olympian’ and it is kind of unreal.”
Megan, who got her start on the trails at the Otway Nordic Ski Club when she was a kid, will be competing in biathlon.
While Heather and Ed got to see Megan compete at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, they will be watching from the comfort of their Prince George home this time around.
“I hold my breath every time she shoots,” says Heather. “You wish her the best and you cheer for her from home.”
Given the time difference between here and South Korea, the Tandys will be up before 4 a.m. on race days. Perhaps not quite a superstition, Heather does have a routine she goes through when watching Megan compete.
“On the computer, when we watch her, they will show the targets and on the computer feed it will turn white, or she gets a red if she misses,” says Heather. “I talk her through every target. I’ll follow what I know is her breathing pattern and say it for her as she shoots. It’s just a stupid thing we do, but if I don’t do it what will happen?”
Heather and Ed stopped by Brink Forest Products Monday to pick up a $2,500 sponsorship cheque from the company, the third installment in a $7,500 commitment to the athlete. Ed says sponsorship is crucial for athletes who want to compete at this high a level.
“When Megan first started out, we had no idea where she was going,” he says. “As parents, you contribute what you can … When you start getting competitive in a less funded sport, you really start to depend on the sponsorships from the businesses and organizations that stand behind our athletes. Without that support, many of our athletes, including Megan, would have had a very difficult time achieving the level that they’ve been able to get to.”
Part of the problem is ongoing support. Many companies provide sponsorships in the year leading up to the Olympics, but an Olympic athlete has to train for years to get to the Games.
“They need to train for the three years leading up to the last year and they also need sponsorship there,” says Ed. “When you have sponsors, like Brink Forest Products, they really help her get to where she needs to be. She lives on a tight budget and when you are an athlete training at that level, your job is to train. It’s very difficult for these high performance athletes to work, as well as train, without compromising their training.”
And training is everything. Heather says Megan is deeply committed to her training and when it’s time to go for a run, she goes for a run. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or crappy out, she gets the run in.
“I have great admiration for her,” Heather says. “You’ve got to admire her level of commitment, it’s pretty exceptional.”
Heather and Ed started Megan in cross-country skiing when she was a kid and she went through the Jackrabbit program with the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. At about 11 or 12 years old, she outgrew the Jackrabbit program. She went to a teen ski night and met some people who were involved in the biathlon.
“She came home and said ‘I want to be in biathlon,’” says Ed. “I didn’t know what that was. When I did learn, I immediately said ‘no. We’re not going to go anywhere where there’s a bunch of young kids with rifles.”
But Megan wouldn’t let it go and she kept bugging her parents. Ed told her he would take her to one practice and if he said they had to leave, they would go.
“When I got there, the coaches, Jeremy Campbell and Fiona Coy, they were so on top of the safety and all the protocols, I immediately felt really comfortable,” says Ed. “From that point forward, she just really took off with it.”
The two quickly became volunteers and helped with the club.
“Jeremy Campbell told me ‘y goal here is to raise citizens, if an Olympic athlete comes out of it, that’s all bonus, but really our focus has to be on raising citizens,’” says Heather. “Right away, we said those are values we felt strongly about and it was a community that both our daughters, being part of that, was matching what we wanted for them as they grew up.”
Megan will be joined by fellow Prince George biathlete Sarah Beaudry, who, at 23 years old, will be competing in her first Olympic Games.
Megan competed in the Vancouver Olympics when she was just 21 years old. She completed the Games as the top-ranked Canadian female biathlete and was the first Canadian woman to compete in the Olympic pursuit event, despite being just weeks removed from a bout of whooping cough.
After Vancouver 2010, Megan had her first child, leading to her taking the 2010-11 season away from biathlon. She returned to the World Cup circuit in 2011-12 and competed at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships before returning to the Olympic Games at Sochi 2014. The highlight for her there was being part of Canada’s best-ever eighth-place finish in the women’s relay. Tandy shot clean on her leg to make it one of the best personal performances of her career after some disappointing racing in her individual events.
She bounced back from that with a career year in 2014-15. She broke into the top-15 in several World Cup races and had the most improved shooting percentage on the circuit. She was inside the top-30 in her four individual events at the 2015 World Championships, which included her qualifying for the mass start. A member of the World Cup team for most of the last decade, Tandy trains away from the national team in Ruhpolding, Germany.