Jun the 28 Corporate
Alumni Spotlight: Annie Martin
VC Alumni Spotlight catches up with past National Team members. This edition features Annie Martin, who was active from 2002 to 2012 with the women’s beach team.
While Annie Martin imagined she would be playing for Team Canada, she wasn’t sure if she would get there. Now, she’s proof that dreaming big and hard work can pay off.
"I had this almost secret dream of being part of the Canadian National Team when I was in high school," Martin said. “But, I didn’t know if I really had the talent and the potential to make it. I was mainly focused on putting in all my effort to develop to my full potential.
“I worked really hard! And I loved everything about the sport. I love training, competitions and I loved seeing myself improve.”
Adding fuel to the national team fire, Martin was growing up when Mark Heese and John Child won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
“I was 15 years old in 1996,” Martin reflected. “I was so impressed by their level of play, but also impressed that a Canadian team has medalled in beach volleyball! I had cut out their podium photo which appeared in True North Volleyball magazine and I had stuck it on my bedroom wall. Eight years later I was sharing an apartment with them at the Athens Olympic Village.”
However, what pushed her to achieve her goals the most was her passion and determination. While not always an easy path, Martin continued to push forward in order to reach her dreams.
"I had a natural motivation when it came to the sport and to training," she said.
"I wanted to develop and reach my full potential as an athlete. Sport is an extraordinary tool for human development and I loved growing in this environment. Obviously, there were difficult moments where the results weren’t where I wanted them to be; sometimes I doubted myself or considered quitting. When that happened, I tried to go back to the basics and focus on why this was so important to me.
“I loved playing volleyball, I loved the feeling it brought me. I needed to find that joy again and remind myself that even if I wasn’t getting the results I hoped for, that I was so lucky to be able to compete at an international level, to travel the world and to be playing the sport I was so passionate about.”
Martin played university volleyball with Sherbrooke Vert et Or from 2000 to 2005, winning two RSEQ conference championships (2002, 2005) and two national championships (2003, 2005). She also has five National Championships under her belt, including three straight from 2002 to 2004.
At the same time, she was getting her start in international competition, playing her first FIVB competition in 2002.
“I had the opportunity to play in one of my first international tournaments in Montreal,” Martin said. “I remember the pride I felt playing in front of my friends and family, representing my country with Guylaine Dumont and playing against the best in the world. It was a childhood dream come to life.
"Mark and John also made it to the final at that tournament! The ambiance of that final round was electrifying. After having lived such an experience, I was extremely motivated to get back to training so I could improve and become an even better player.”
Dumont was the perfect partner for Martin to start her career, assisting her greatly in adjusting to the national team.
"I started playing with Guylaine when I was 20 so I didn’t have much experience at the international level,” Martin explained. “Guylaine was 34 and had so much experience. She had played seven years on the Pro Tour in Italy and was among the best in the league. She also played on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Tour and won many Canadian championships.
"She was exceptionally talented, like the Sidney Crosby of volleyball. Having the opportunity to play with her as I made my debut was a huge opportunity for me. Her level of play allowed me to develop my skills so much faster and that’s what led me to a chance at the 2004 Olympics.”
Along with Dumont, Vincent Larivée was also a key person for Martin in getting her beach volleyball national team career started and continuing it for a decade.
“Vincent started to take care of my conditioning when I was 15 and became my beach volleyball coach five years later,” Martin said. “These were key years in my development as an athlete, allowing me to make the national team. I’ve had the chance to work with many coaches, all who have had my best interests at heart.
"My coaches have changed my life in a way and Vincent is the one who’s followed me throughout my whole career. I owe him a lot.”
With her first international competition at just 20 years old, it was just two years later that the Lachine, Quebec native reached the ultimate stadium in sport – the 2002 Olympic Games.
"My time at the Olympics was a grandiose experience,” she said “In Athens, I was only 22 years old. The night before the first match, I experienced a mix of emotions: I was excited, I was looking forward to playing, I was stressed, I wanted to do my best. But I was well prepared. I made it a point to live in the present, I wanted to be a sponge and make the most out of each and every moment of this experience.
"I had such an amazing time competing alongside Guylaine in that massive stadium in front of all those people.”
Martin and Dumont finished fifth in the Games, then Canada’s second best finish at the Olympics in beach volleyball next to Heese and Child. It turned out that that wouldn’t be her only Olympic qualification though. Eight years later with a new partner (Marie-Andrée Lessard), Martin returned to the Olympic Games as her last tournament with the national team, finishing 19th in the event.
"When I went back in 2012, I felt the same mix of emotions as I did in Athens,” Martin said. “I was excited and nervous all at once. Since it was to be my last-ever tournament, I also wanted to make the most of it. It was a great honour to be able to share the stage with Marie-Andrée, a good friend, who has always been a warrior on the volleyball court.”
In that same year, Martin was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
With her playing days now behind her, Martin once again finds herself watching Canadian athletes at the top of the beach volleyball world. This includes Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Parades, who are among the leaders in the sport across the globe, highlighted by a 2019 World Championship gold medal.
"I’m really thrilled to see the Canadian teams having so much success at an international level,” Martin explained. “I’m now a coach, so I can really see the impact of this performance on the development of our sport. I see the sparkle in our young players’ eyes when I watch them out there; they’re inspired by these athletes’ journey.
"I’ve always believed that a Canadian team could be a world champion. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment for Sarah and Melissa!”
In her playing retirement, Martin is now back at the Université de Sherbrooke as a co-coach with the women’s indoor team, moulding the next wave of volleyball athletes.
When asked what advice she would give to young volleyball players with their eyes set on playing for Canada, Martin said:
"Dream big! And take action! When you’re passionate about something, you can’t be scared to dream big and believe in your dreams. However, it’s important to know that reaching an elite level demands consistency. Training, and training well each and every day is probably the best advice I can give.”
Looking back at her career, it all started with just that: a big dream, taking action, and passion. Reminiscing on her favourite memory from her playing days, pushing through everything in her way stands out as the highlight.
"Being a part of the national team and competing at an international level is a lot of work,” she said. “I’m proud of myself for being able to persevere despite the obstacles and difficulties I faced. These experiences, both good and bad, are a part of my story. I’ve learned so much and have truly grown, not only as an athlete but as a person. I know that I gave one hundred percent and that’s what counts the most in my eyes.”
- Interview by Josh Bell