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Jul 21 2017 - JDLF Athlete Profile: Jon Gionet On The People that Believe in You

Words by Grace Annear

At the 2017 Atlantic University Sport Championship, shot putter Jonathan Gionet donned UNB’s red singlet and stepped into the throwing circle for his final throw. The crowd was silent, and he zoned in on a state of focus. He wound up, and launched the shot. With a thud it landed at 16.76 meters.


The throw was not only a new lifetime best, but it also broke the AUS record and it ranked Jon fourth for the upcoming national university championships. A month before, a lesser throw qualified him for this summer’s World Francophone Games, his first international championship. This weight man is on a roll.


Now that he’s New Brunswick’s best-ever shot putter, it’s hard to believe that Jon first made a provincial team by accident. He attributes his success to his connections across the province – to the people who inspired him, and to the people who believed in him.


In grade eleven, Jon dabbled in athletics, tossing the javelin. The following year, he set his sights on Canada Games. Since his hero, Caleb Jones, dominated the javelin scene, Jon turned to different throwing events. He made the team in shot put, and after the games, assumed he’d reached the peak of his athletic success.


In the beginning of his undergraduate degree at Saint Thomas University, he prioritized his education and didn’t pursue athletics. Pretty quickly, though, running coach Alex Coffin reached out to the raw talent. “Alex did a lot for me,” Jon says. “He encouraged me to compete, and helped me connect with training resources I needed for my event.”


As the only STU thrower, Jon began to practice alongside the UNB athletes and train under Mark Sheehan. Over the years he threw further and further, and once the winter university season ended, he began to attend Athletics New Brunswick’s spring training camps in Florida.


“The first time I attended the camp, it was actually a mistake, which is kinda funny.” Steve Leblanc, ANB’s high performance coach, made a calculation error with qualification standards. “They didn’t realize until after I’d been invited that my throw wasn’t far enough.” Jon chuckles. “I’m so glad that happened though. I don’t know if I would have kept going if I hadn’t gone and been so inspired by the team.” 


“I started to think that, maybe if I took it seriously, I could be good. Over the years that feeling grew stronger, and I started to get more and more invested.”


Jon changed his diet, cutting out fast foods and prioritizing whole foods like chicken and rice. “I’m a bigger guy, and I need a lot of calories. Now I make sure I get good calories – not from McDonalds like before.” He followed his gym plans, and stopped skipping a practices.


“None of this would have happened without people’s encouragement,” Jon says. “I wouldn’t have known what I was capable of, and wouldn’t have known how to get to where I am without my community.”


In his fourth year of university competition, Jon hit a plateau, and it to switch things up. “I’d worked with Mark for four years, and it was awesome. I just needed a change, though, and approached Yvan Pelltier of Fredericton Legion.”


“Yvan puts a lot of hours into my workouts and plans and, even though it’s my job to do it, without his help I wouldn’t be here. He goes above and beyond -- if I need sometime to talk to, someone to vent to, he’s always there. He’s become like a second dad to me.”


Back in Jon’s grade twelve year, representing his province at the World Francophone Games seemed as far away as the moon. “It wasn’t really even on my radar because the standards were so far off of what I could throw then.” It’s kinda funny, then, that since 2013 the standards only grew more difficult. “When the 2017 standards came out, I thought it was impossible. But with all the help and encouragement I had a breakthrough and achieved it.”


“What I love most about athletics is the sense of community. It’s never gone away. If I go for track meet, I’ll always know someone, and everyone always supports one another.”


“Since growing up, Caleb Jones has been a huge motivational factor,” Jon says of the now retired NB record holder, multiple-time Canadian medalist, and Canadian team member. “Now we’re good friends. He taught me a lot about competing over the years, and this winter, he phoned me after CIS championship. I hadn’t finished as high as I’d hoped, and he knew exactly what to say.”


“Don’t tell him that though – it’ll go to his head.”


In April, Jon attended a two-week, warm-weather training camp in California. After competing in the sunshine state, he returned to train in New Brunswick. Lately, the wet conditions of NB’s outdoor fields have prevented early competitions, but Jon hopes to tour in Ontario and Quebec before competing at the Canadian National Championships in July. After that, he’ll depart for the Ivory Coast, and don the Canada-Nouveau Brunswick singlet, and compete at the World Francophone Games.


“It’s funny to look back and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t met these people,” he says. “I love the people, and now athletics is a huge passion.”

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