Dionne on the box and the bubble

Since the time she started competing in freestyle skiing Deidra Dionne believed it would be “neat” to be on the back of a cereal box.

Since the time she started competing in freestyle skiing Deidra Dionne believed it would be “neat” to be on the back of a cereal box.

Well that dream has come true.

The 27-year-old aerial specialist from Red Deer is one of 16 aspiring Canadian Olympians selected to be displayed on the back of various General Mills products.

Each box has four different athletes shown in action with a brief resume with their home town, where they live and date of birth, along with their sport. Dionne is on Reese Puffs.

“I expect it will rotate and we’ll all be on different boxes,” said Dionne. “I think it’s a real neat idea. General Mills will donate a dollar from the sale of every box to the Canadian athletes. Plus when you open the box you can go to a site and vote for your favorite athlete and show your support to your community.”

You can also go to a website and call up a profile on your favorite athlete, says Dionne, who had to apply to get into the program.

“We had to write what it means to be a Canadian and what it means to grow up in your community. It’s really community focused, which makes it even more special. I owe a lot to Red Deer, so I had no problem trying to put it on the map.”

Veronika Bauer also represents aerials in the promotion.

But just because Dionne is on the cereal box doesn’t mean she’s a shoe-in to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Far from it.

In fact she finds herself on the bubble after struggling during the 2008-09 season.

“It was a real tough year. I ended up two years ago on the podium (a silver in Moscow) and felt good going into this winter. Then this winter I struggled. It was frustrating in that I trained really well and jumped well in training, but for the first time in my career it just didn’t happen.”

Dionne entered the season and finished 11th, 12th and 16th in her first three World Cup events. She then injured her ribs prior to a competition in Quebec, missed two World Cups, and returned to finish 14th and 17th.

“It just seemed that once I started missing a few jumps I started questioning myself and everything I was doing,” she said. “You can be your own worst enemy and I spent the whole year thinking about what I should be thinking about and wondering If I was thinking about the wrong things. It just became more and more frustrating and once I started questioning myself I couldn’t get out of it. And once I started to address it it was to late.”

Dionne did sit down with her coaches late in the season.

“We talked about where I was and where I had to go and following that my training was productive.”

She attended the world championships, placing 16th, although she felt much better about where she was at.

“I jumped really well, but they were jumps I should have been doing in November. I touched my hand on both landings. That’s something that should happen early in the season.

“But I felt the pieces were back together and I should be that much stronger going into next season.”

And she needs to be.

She needs four strong finishes out of her first six events to make her third Olympic team.

“There’s no free passes,” she said. “Just because I had success before means nothing. It starts from scratch. It’s a challenge for me to qualify, but then it’s been a challenge for me before. Every Olympics there’s been something.”

Dionne made the Canadian team in the 1999-2000 season and was considered a future star when she won a bronze in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2005 she suffered a major setback, injuring her neck in a fall in Australia. But by 2006 she was back at the Games in Torino, Italy.

Although she finished 22nd it was a moment she’ll long remember.

“The first Olympics was special because I won the medal, but the second was special because I was there,” she said.

Getting an opportunity to compete at home, would make 2010 special as well.

“It would be special because it’s at home, but every Olympics is important because you never know when your career may come to an end,” she said. “This will be my last Olympics. Possibly not my last competition, who knows, but I have other aspirations.”

Dionne is relaxing at home prior to leaving for a camp in Kelowna, but she’s not sitting around. She’s spending time talking with kids at a number of schools in Central Alberta, including Eastview, Delburne and Lacombe.

“I was adopted by a class in Eastview and I write to them when I have something to write and they write to me. I visited them after Christmas and again this week. I’m also talking to kids in Delburne and Lacombe. It’s nice to go back to the schools and see the little kids with big eyes with the same dreams I had at that age.”

Dionne will spent five weeks at a fitness and training camp in Kelowna prior to travelling to Quebec City to train on a water ramp until the middle of October when she begins her real run at qualifying for Vancouver.

Contact Danny Rode at drode@bprda.wpengine.com