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As a boy, he was hospitalized for asthma, yet he went on to triumph in the grueling cold-weather sport of cross-country skiing. As a teen and preteen, Lenny Valjas was loath to train seriously and kept switching sports. Even now, the athlete from Toronto, who will compete for Canada at the Sochi Olympics, would just as soon be surfing in Hawaii. And as Paul Hunter points out in his ebook The Unlikely Olympian: Canada's Nordic Skiing Phenomenon Lenny Valjas, the sprinter had to return to Canada in December from training in Europe to get intensive rehab for his left leg. Yet Hunter notes that Valjas has natural talents and a competitive edge that have helped him defy the critics and naysayers. A reluctant Olympian he may be, but Valjas has Olympic drive nonetheless. Just watch him at Sochi.
Paul Hunter has been a reporter at the Toronto Star for 27 years. For most of that time he worked in the sports department, for which he covered 19 Stanley Cup finals, five Olympics, a handful of Grey Cups and far too few playoffs runs by the Maple Leafs as that team’s beat reporter over two decades. Paul has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award in sports writing and was named to the Maple Leafs media wall of fame. He joined the Star’s features team in 2011. This is his seventh contribution to Star Dispatches.
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