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Off Guard: Seabiscuit never looked like a winner

Hosted by two-time Olympian Perdita Felicien, Off Guard provides one unconventional theme each week, considered three different ways.

Check out the this week's episode:

Seabiscuit didn't have the look...

This episode is all about the outliers…those not-so- obvious athletes whose hypothetical team mascot could be Seabiscuit.

Seabiscuit did not look like  a winner. The great horse from the great depression had some genuine strikes against him. Seabiscuit was a stumpy hoss. He took his naps seriously. He had knobby knees. He really liked tucking into the feedbag. A lot. His early career was marked by a great number of losses. All the other horses used to make cruel horsey jokes about poor old Seabiscuit in the stables. But Seabiscuit had something those long-forgotten nags never had: an insatiable lust for victory.

Seabiscuit loved a glimpse of the finish line. Show him the final stretch, give him a tiny window of a chance, and he would surge like nobody's business. Racing fans would laugh at his wonky form, but there was no denying the results. Today we honour the spirit of that dandy horse in conversations with athletes who just don't quite fit the conventional mold.

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Felicien starts us off with a visit to Ed Whitlock. The 85-year-old runner from Milton, Ont.,  owns 22 world records, and counting. Scientists can't quite explain his exceptional speed. Ten years ago, Whitlock was still running sub three-hour marathons. Nobody, as in not a single other human being, has ever cracked three hours after the age of 70. Last year, Whitlock ran a marathon under four hours. That is truly a feat that stands alone. He has world records at virtually every middle and long distance in track. What do you do for company when you are the only person on the planet who can run like that? Who are your training partners?

After Whitlock, Felicien sits down with Jonas Enroth, coincidentally in his final minutes as a Toronto Maple Leaf. We caught up with Enroth just before he headed off to his new gig with the Anaheim Ducks. Enroth has the distinction of being the smallest goalie in the NHL. He was not considered a little player when he started playing pro, but the position steadily became dominated by huge bruisers. So what can Mr. Enroth offer that those six-and-a-half footers don't? Smaller holes for one thing!

Jamie Strashin devotes a day to a diminutive Toronto teen who really, really believes that he can make a go of it in big-league hockey. Jackson Edwards is not lacking for skill or drive, but he's many, many, many pounds and inches smaller than everybody else on the rink? Do coaches and parents have to be cruel to be kind here? Squelch his dreams? What about the counter argument - that it's only the truly driven ones - even if they seem crazy - who make it to the show?

And, while we tend to focus on smaller than normal athletes, Peter Mahovlich, has a tale to tell Bob Cole about his own experience. At 6'5" Mahovlich towered over practically everyone else on the ice for most of his career. What does that do to your game? When is too much reach a bad thing?

To listen to the podcast, click cbc.ca/offguard

To subscribe and tell us what you think, email us at offguard@cbc.ca

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