Volume 95, Issue 30

Thursday, October 25, 2001
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Dinosaurs scintillating in East

Western's Donato a survivor

Mustangs host Waterloo

Western's Donato a survivor

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

Survivor saw men and women pitted against each other in the wilderness with the lure of cash as their prime motivation – Eco-Challenge sees contestants like Western's Simon Donato competing for their own reasons.

Donato and his three Team Advair cohorts – none of whom are Jeff Probst – set forth into the New Zealand outback on Oct. 21 to take part in the grueling Eco-Challenge adventure race.

Each team must perform a multitude of physical tasks over the course of seven to 12 days, including mountain biking, running, climbing and river rafting.

Clearly, this is a race that requires its participants to accept certain hard facts. "You can't get scared easily," Donato said. "You're going to hurt, you're going to be hungry, you're going to be tired. You have to be making certain sacrifices for the team."

Donato said the rewards of this race are not realized until you've taken off your sweaty clothes and muddy shoes.

"I'll be honest – when you race, you hate it. When you finish, you're happy and a couple days later you think to yourself, 'I just covered however many kilometres and faced these adversities and passed the test that was presented to me,'" he said.

"Basically for me, it's 'if I can do this, I can do anything,'" he explained.

Donato became involved in these competitions after a high school friend suggested he try it. According to Donato, he quickly became confortable competing in the harsh wilderness.

"We were put together with two other people from Ottawa and we did the race. We finished, we had fun – so we did more," Donato said.

Now Donato is participating in the eighth annual Eco-Challenge, the premier adventure race. "This is essentially the pinnacle of races," he said.

The growing popularity of adventure racing has led to talk of making the event an Olympic sport.

Donato said he sees the growth of the sport continuing, but added the sport is not easy on an athlete's wallet and sponsorship is essential.

The race is The Discovery Channel's most watched event and that helps attract sponsorship dollars from companies like Glaxo-Smith Klein who donate money to Donato and his team, Donato added.

Every team sport demands co-operation among its members, but Donato said the group relationship in adventure racing is even more unique and crucial.

"You rely on your team. When you feel low, there is someone there to buoy you up. The communication has to be open – you've got to be able to tell somebody you hate their guts one minute and that you love them the next," he said.

There is often no rest for the weary in this demanding event because the team must move as a cohesive unit. "We'll sleep if the whole team can lay down and go right to sleep. Otherwise, there's no point in one person sleeping," Donato explained.

How long will the sometimes sleepless Donato participate in these races? "As long as my body lets me," he said with a smile.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001