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SkiingSmiling because it happened

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013 | 03:56 PM

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Canadian skier Kelly VanderBeek, shown in this 2009 file photo, says there is a difference between failure and not reaching your goals: failure would have been not trying. (File/Getty Images) Canadian skier Kelly VanderBeek, shown in this 2009 file photo, says there is a difference between failure and not reaching your goals: failure would have been not trying. (File/Getty Images)

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Canadian skier Kelly VanderBeek announced her retirement from competitive sport on Saturday, but as she moves toward her second life, she writes that she'll take some advice from Dr. Seuss and "not cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
Many would say I live with horseshoes permanently lodged in my back pocket (often they use more vulgar terms of course, but this is a family friendly article). To be honest, as I reflect on my life to date, I would have to agree with them.

As I look back on my 13-year career with the National Team and 21-year career since I started racing, I have been extremely lucky to have not only met great people, but to have been blessed by their willingness to encourage me, inspire me, and teach me.

The lessons skiing and sport have taught me are so extensive - they have permeated into every aspect of my life. Skiing has taught me to be stronger, more thoughtful, humble and even cocky at times (like in the start gate when facing three kilometres of traveling over 100 km/h).

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However, the greatest lesson I've learned throughout my athletic career is that you are only as good as the team around you. In order to be successful you have to surround yourself with people who share your passions, believe in your dreams, and take ownership of their own roles.

Yet, even with what I would consider a life of being extremely lucky, sometimes, we all find ourselves faced with bad luck. For me, that moment came on Dec. 17th, 2009.

Two months out from the Vancouver Games, I was expected to be a medal contender but I dislocated my knee and severed the ACL, MCL, and PCL amongst other damage, and faced a long and hard road to recovery.

Since the injury, I went onto broadcast in the Vancouver and London Olympics, do guest work with CBC, Sportsnet, and Sportscene as well as work with countless youth and corporate groups and return to my old passion of photography (I was working professionally as a 15-year-old with my own darkroom and coming back to it has been fuel for my soul).

The whole time I was rehabbing, I was getting stronger and healthier both physically and emotionally. Nothing makes you stronger than adversity! I even returned to the World Cup circuit for four races last season and raced Sochi's Olympic track.

These are all things I'm extremely proud of doing since my injury sent my life on a different path than I had expected. Now, after three years of recovery I have, with mixed emotions, announced my retirement from competitive sport.

Why have I chosen now to retire? In the end things always seem so simple, and for me it was simply time. In September 2012 my optimism was high as my knee continued to improve. However, after training and returning to gates before Christmas, I realized my knee wasn't handling the stresses well enough.

I had set my sights on Sochi and I can't help but feel a sense of failure for, for the first time in my career, setting a goal and not attaining it. It took my husband David Ford's wise words to remind me of the difference between not reaching a goal and failure. Failure would have been not trying.

I truly believe success is in the trying, in the striving for excellence, and in the acceptance that failure is possible, but continuing anyway. So today, I am celebrating my career as I hold close my heart the memories and friendships forged throughout it.  

Although today I announced my retirement from competitive sport, I feel I am leaving this sport richer than I have ever been.  Life doesn't come with guarantees, but the courage to pursue your dreams will never leave you with less than you started.

Moving towards my second life as a non-competitive athlete I shall take Dr. Seuss' advice and, "..not cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

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