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Regina debate team takes silver at nationals

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nasra Moumin and Areeb Salim placed second at the 2012 Canadian Junior National Debating Championships last weekend May 2, 2012 in Regina, SK.
Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser , Regina Leader-Post

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Two Regina teens have argued their way to becoming one of the top debate teams in the country.

Nasra Moumin and Areeb Salim, who are both 15 and attend Campbell Collegiate, placed second at the 2012 Canadian Senior Debating Tournament held in Montreal last weekend.

Ever the competitor, Salim says there is always room for improvement.

"I'm a bit astonished, to be honest, but we were so close to getting first," he said in an interview.

"I just keep thinking back on what we could have done differently for a better result, but I'm still appreciative of the fact that we made it that far."

What a difference a year makes.

Moumin and Salim, who have been friends since they were five years old, first went to nationals last year and placed 26th. They chalked it up as a good experience, headed home and got back to work with twice-weekly practice sessions that typically last two hours. When training for major tournaments, though, they prepare four times a week.

At the behest of their coach, Janessa Weir, their spare time involves reading The Economist and Maclean's magazines, watching Al Jazeera and monitoring news blogs.

Then last weekend, during their second trip to the national championships, the self-described underdogs knocked out teams that compete for Team Canada at the world level.

"I'm shocked, because a lot of the teams we won against are debaters that I aspire to be like," Moumin said. "The fact that we were able to compete against them and beat some of them - that was sort of the highlight for me."

Now she is a member of that club, having received word in December that she made Team Canada. Moumin will travel to New Brunswick this summer for training, and hopes to be selected for the team that will be sent to compete at the world championships in Turkey in 2013. Salim plans to try out for the national team again next year.

Last weekend, Salim and Moumin survived the six-round preliminary debates that included both surprise topics for which they had only a few minutes to prepare and others they knew of beforehand.

They ended up losing to an Ontario team in the finals to place second.

They credit their success to Weir, who introduced the pair to the world of debate when they were in Grade 7.

Always an argumentative child, Salim soon found the structure of debating the perfect channel for his temperament.

"I found out there's this whole thing for arguing, so I thought, 'That's my thing,' and I joined," he said.

Moumin's start wasn't as voluntary. With no desire to enter debate tournaments but encouraged by her teacher and parents, she soon began to enjoy forming arguments.

"It helps you channel your discussions in a meaningful way," Moumin said.

And while they say good friends who become teammates can often be a hindrance, they seem to make it work. They aren't afraid to be honest with each other about their performances, and afterwards, they can hang out together and relax - until the next issue of The Economist hits the shelves, of course.

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