A well-rounded athlete, Alexandria’s Mark Major has been a presence in the sporting fields of hockey, soccer, cross country skiing, triathlons, and most recently golf. Mark’s greatest accomplishments came while he paddled solo and tandem in Glengarry’s Raisin River and waterways beyond Glengarry’s boundaries.
It is little wonder that canoeing became a passion of Mark’s at a young age as he is the eldest son of one of Glengarry’s legendary and prolific paddlers Bruno Major. (Bruno was inducted into the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame in 1991). Raised in Williamstown, Mark along with his younger brother Miles had plenty of opportunity to hone their paddling skills in preparation for the annual Raisin River Canoe races, first competing in 1977. This team of brothers would commit to racing the Raisin River a total of 8 times and achieved a second place, three fourth place finishes and a 10th place in the span of their racing time together.
Mark went on to paddle in the Raisin River Races with his then girlfriend and future wife Sylvie Campeau in 1985, and again in 1987 and 1988, twice coming in second place, and once in third place in the mixed category. They teamed up again to a first-place finish in the 1985 Prescott to Ogdensburg New York Race in the mixed category and finished with the third best time overall in every race category at that event.
In 1989, Mark joined his father and paddled to a first-place finish in the Raisin River Canoe Race, and would repeat the win in 1992 and 1993. This father-son duo set a record on low water in 1992, then broke their own record the following year in 1993. They had second place finishes in the 1990 and 1996 races and a third-place finish in 1994. Mark and his father enjoyed competing in the Jock River Canoe Races in Ottawa, achieving three second place finishes in 1991, 1992, 1993, a third-place finish in 1994 and a first place in 1996. Mark admits that paddling alongside his father, his mentor, will remain his best memories of his competitive years.
Much of Mark’s success as a tandem paddler in and away from Glengarry came when he teamed up with Corey Van Loon (Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame 2022 inductee). They captured a first-place finish in the Raisin River in 1990. Mark and Corey became very much “in rhythm” as teammates and went on to paddle competitively at the provincial and national levels. They achieved 2 silver medals at the Provincial Championships in 1991 and 1992. At the National Championships in St-Stanislas Québec in 1989, they finished 13th and in 1994 they finished fourth at the event hosted in Ottawa.
Mark, while paddling solo in Provincial Championships achieved three second-place finishes in 1989, 1991, 1992, two fourth-places in 1990, and 1994. Again, teaming up with Corey Van Loon in the tandem field, they achieved a first-place provincial finish in 1993 and a fifth-place provincial finish in 1989. During their paddles together, they finished first in Marsh Mash Canoe Race in Bradford Ontario, and another first-place finish at Tupper Lake New York 10-mile race. Either competing in solo or tandem events, Mark’s elite skills and training regime always made him a top medal contender.
The North Canoe races (team of six paddlers) brought him and his teammates to four first place finishes in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and two second-place Provincial Championship finishes in 1989 and 1994. This brought them forward to winning a second-place finish at the Canadian National Championships in Quebec in 1989, and then a first-place finish at the championship event in Ottawa in 1992 with the team of Mark as sterns man, Maurice Sauvé, Corey Van Loon, Pierre Lavictoire, Joanna Faloon and captained by Bruno Major.
As a result of his numerous paddling accomplishments, Mark became well known and respected in the sport circuit. Mark was one of only three marathon canoeists invited to join the National Sprint Team and race for the Canadian Airlines team at the International Dragon Boat Festival held in Toronto in 1993. This boat captured the gold medal and earned a sport representing Team Canada to race in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei the following year.
Mark quietly and unassumingly competed in the above races as a dedicated, competitive and fair sportsman who was always helping out his fellow teammates and competitors alike. He recalls training with numerous athletes from Montreal, Ingleside, Alexandria and the L’Orignal area. During these practice sessions, they would deliberately change up the teams in the canoes in order to even out the playing field and keep the practising fields as competitive as possible. Keeping the teams equal to practise allowed them to run at the same speed, run in a pack and navigate the conditions of a tight race thus learning from each other while improving their techniques. Paddling from Williamstown to Lancaster and back during these practise sessions, at times having as many as seven or eight teams practicing together, created an environment of intense training, comraderie, and memories to last a lifetime.
In keeping with the sport, Mark also entered numerous triathlons that involved canoeing, bicycling, and running finishing in the top spots in the Rideau Canoe Club Triathlon, as well as the local Alexandria Triathlon. He won Top Triathlon in 1988 which was hosted in Alexandria. In January 1988 he won the Sauvé Real Estate Endurance Award which included events such as the Alexandria Cross Country Ski Loppet (15km), the Raisin River Canoe Race (21 miles) The Williamstown Foot Race (7 miles), and the Terry Fox Flotilla.
In the off season, Mark also took up the sport of cross-country skiing as a means to remain in shape for the next season’s canoe races. This training brought him to compete in the 35 km loppet of the Gatineau 55 Cross Country Ski Race in 1989. In the subsequent years from 1990 to 1996, he increased his competitive distance by entering the 55 km event. In 1993 he placed an impressive 100th out of a field on 2,000 skiers. To add to his skiing accomplishments, Mark won first place in the 17-kilometre Alexandria Cross Country Ski Loppet in a time of 54 minutes and 20 seconds. He enjoyed giving back to his community by participating in numerous events that raised funds for the Terry Fox Annual Cancer Flotilla (canoeing), as well as the Heart and Stroke Foundation Loppet (skiing). Mark continues to enjoy skiing on Glengarry’s local ski trails.
Mark now enjoys golfing with his wife Sylvie and when time permits their two children, Emily and Adam. Despite Mark’s busy sport and work schedule, he always made the time to be involved and volunteer in his children’s sporting interests as they were growing up. He continues to share his passion for canoeing with his brothers, family and friends through back country camping trips and fishing trips to Algonquin Park. He most recently took great pride in showing his four-year-old granddaughter how to canoe.
Mark’s elite athleticism and success were a result of his commitment to fitness, skill development, determination and fairmindedness. He exemplified the best of being a team player and often took on a mentoring role to those new to the canoe. As humble as Mark is, he most deservingly joins the ranks of the legendary Raisin River paddlers previously inducted into the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame. Mark will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, August 16 during the induction dinner ceremonies held at the Billy Gebbie Arena in Alexandria.