Athletes preaching clean, green word

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Hayley Wickenheiser -- national hockey hero, devoted mother. And environmentalist.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist with the national women's team is doing her part to stop pollution, lending a hand with the Clean Air Champions project.

Standing in the shadow of the Peace Tower yesterday, Wickenheiser spoke about changes in her lifestyle to become more green.

She drives a hybrid vehicle, rides a bike to places she would normally drive, turns off the lights in rooms at home that don't need to be lit, and hangs the laundry on a line instead of tossing the load into the dryer.

"It's little things like that that maybe people take for granted, and maybe we can think about it a little more to make a difference," she said.

The Clean Air Champions initiative is aimed at young kids and their parents to make choices like Wickenheiser in their daily lives.

Several current and former national-calibre athletes have signed on with the program to spread the word.

It's the idea of David Chernushenko, who is attempting to become the leader of the federal Green Party.

Wickenheiser became more aware of the problems of air pollution during last winter's Olympics in Turin, when several Canadian athletes became sick after taking short outdoor runs near the athletes' village.

The team's athletic therapists and doctors attributed the illnesses to polluted air.

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"It just raised an awareness in me," said Wickenheiser. "There's two things that I'm passionate about -- the environment and the health of our kids."

The program also encourages parents to involve their kids in more active lifestyles.

Anna van der Kamp, a silver medallist in rowing at the Atlanta Games in 1996, said she received her pollution revelation four years ago after becoming short of breath following a bike ride in Ottawa.

Now she works closely on the project, hoping to change the way Canadians treat the air they breathe.

"It would be great to have a whole generation of Canadians to have at the top of mind that each action they take every day is going to affect the environment and to change their day-to-day mentality," she said.


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