Saskatoon

Colette Bourgonje to be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday

On Wednesday Saskatchewan athlete and former Saskatoon teacher Colette Bourgonje will be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Saskatchewan athlete was first Canadian to win a Paralympic medal on home soil

Colette Bourgonje is the only female in Canada to compete in both Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. (Canada's Sports Hall of Fame)

When Colette Bourgonje looks back on her illustrious sports career, it's hard for her to pick out just one or two highlights.

"I've just had so many fun adventures," Bourgonje told CBC Radio Saskatoon Morning host Jennifer Quesnel.

The 10-time Paralympian is set to receive two of Canada's highest sporting honours. 

On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan athlete and former Saskatoon teacher will be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Then in November Bourgonje, who lives in Prince Albert, Sask., will be inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame. 

She competed in 10 Paralympic Games — seven winter in Para Nordic skiing and three summer in wheelchair racing —ending up with three silver and seven bronze medals over her career.

Bourgonje said she was overwhelmed with the inductions.

"I knew that (my nomination) had been submitted but I'm always so surprised when it is selected. I don't know why," she said.

Canada's Colette Bourgonje will receive the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))

"This week will be such an amazing reunion with Senator [Chantal] Petticlerc who I trained and raced with." Petticlerc will emcee the induction ceremonies.

Class of 2019 Inductees:

  • Colette Bourgonje (Para Nordic skiing and wheelchair racing).

  • Alexandre Bilodeau  (freestyle skiing).                    

  • Martin Brodeur (ice hockey).

  • Jayna Hefford (ice hockey).

  • Waneek Horn-Miller (water polo).

  • Vicki Keith (swimming).

  • Guylaine Bernier (rowing).

  • Doug Mitchell (multi-sport).

Bourgonje found out about the Paralympics and competing in wheelchair racing while going to the University of Saskatchewan.

"I come from the able bodied sport of running and it took some time to find out about the Paralympics and to find a road I wanted to travel on," she said.

When her friend Pat Prokopchuk got her to try sit skiing, Bourgonje knew she had found her passion.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh this is really my sport.'"

Bourgonje said skiing gave her a new sense of freedom.

"There is something about sliding on snow that is just awesome."

The Sochi Games were Colette Bourgonje's seventh winter Paralympics. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)

At the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics, Bourgonje won silver and bronze medals in cross-country skiing and became the first Canadian to win a Paralympic medal on Canadian soil. 

"Getting that first medal in 2010, that was an absolute highlight," she said, adding being the Canadian flag bearer at the Nagano Games and Torino Games were also major highlights.

"And how can you top having an elementary school (in Saskatoon) named after you?" said the former school teacher. "That is a place of joy where you get to go and visit the kids. You get to ski with them, you get to bowl with them.

"It's just been magical."

Bourgonje continues to have a hand in sport by raising awareness for the Para sport movement, coaching disabled youth and promoting active living through Saskatchewan's In Motion program.

And while her Paralympic career might be over, she still skis competitively.

"I'm still racing in Saskatchewan with the kids," Bourgonje said.

"That's what I love about the sport. You don't have to quit racing. It never has to end."

with file from Saskatoon Morning

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