I was seven years old when Vancouver and Whistler hosted the 2010 Olympic Games. I barely understood what Olympic athletes did, let alone aspire to become one. Growing up in Pemberton BC, I had some of the best mountain terrain in the world right in my backyard. By the time I could walk, I was on skis, and my childhood was packed with outdoor adventures. At the same time, none of these activities were anything more to me than fun weekend hobbies.
Truth is, when the Olympics were in Whistler, I wasn’t even very interested in sports. I remember watching hockey on TV with my dad, and collecting the special olympic themed coins with my brother. The closest I came to athletic participation myself was when I sang in the children’s choir at the Paralympic closing ceremony
Even though the 2010 Olympics were not a pivotal moment in my sporting career, their legacy created fantastic opportunities for Canadian athletes. I had no idea what luge was in 2010, but three years later I was able to try the sport during a school field trip to the Whistler Sliding Centre. The facility was built for luge, bobsleigh and skeleton competition during the Olympics, and is one of only two sliding tracks in Canada. This is where I fell in love with luge. I was hooked after my first runs on that school trip. I joined the development program that winter, and haven’t looked back.
I slid a few times a week for two years, and then decided to begin pursuing sport as more than just a hobby. That summer I was invited to train with the junior national team, which I will admit was a terrifying jump to make. This was a bigger commitment than anything I’d ever done before, and included gym and sport specific training sessions twice a day, five times a week, all summer. I was scared at committing so much time to something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pursue long term. What if I wasn’t even successful at it? I remember feeling really conflicted about how I wanted to spend my early teenage years. What was I sacrificing to pursue sport? I decided to take a chance on myself. At least I knew that I would regret it if I never tried!
One year later, I achieved my goal of making the Junior National team. That winter I spent seven weeks training and competing overseas in Germany and Austria. The conflicted feeling disappeared. I fell in love with everything about luge; the travel, learning new and exciting tracks, international competition … so many more things. I discovered what it was like to have goals and be motivated to achieve them. I set my sights on a youth overall trophy, and the 2020 Youth Olympics. After starting the 2018/19 season with two golds and one silver medal in the Youth World Cup, I felt confident in my ability to achieve my goals. But life seldom follows the path we plan for ourselves.
The phone rang just before Christmas 2018. Would I join the senior National team for the second half of the season? I was 16 years old, and super excited about the opportunity. The senior coaches were taking a risk by bringing me on board, and I was eager to show them my best. I was not only the youngest on the national team, I was the youngest racer on the entire world cup circuit.
I have hit the ripe old age of 17 now, and I’m travelling full time with the National team. In the first World Cup race of the year I surprised myself with a respectable 8th place finish in the women’s race, and a 4th place with my teammates in the relay. I’m still one of the youngest on tour, and trying my best to balance life as a full-time world cup athlete and full-time high school student.
Missing four and a half months of school each year does not make for the easiest education, and trying to study while racing around Europe and North America does not help the focus on luge either. Public school and elite sport were not made to go hand in hand.
Thankfully I have online school, amazingly accommodating teachers, and a mother who won’t let me focus 100% on luge, (which I find myself wanting to do) so I am almost melding these two worlds in my life.
Not quite your average teenage experience,.. but so much better in my opinion. I may sacrifice some aspects of normal teen life, but the life experiences outweigh the sacrifices tenfold.
I get to spend most of my winters travelling the world, meeting people from different countries, doing the sport I love every day at the highest level. Life lessons are coming at me from all directions. As my mom says, even if it all comes to an end tomorrow, the person sport has shaped me into makes everything worth it.
(Top image Submitted by Dietmar Reker)
The Trinity Ellis edition
Q: The best book you've read?
A: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.
Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: Stuff you should know. Always interesting!
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Connect to your joy.
Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: Need for Speed.
Q: Word or phrase you over use?
A: That’s a future Trinity problem…
Q: Skill you wish you had?
A: Being a morning person. Or solving a Rubik's cube. Both are great life skills.
Q: Something no one would guess about you?
A: I love backcountry hiking and camping.
Q: What scares you?
A: Bugs in general and spiders in particular.
Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: David Dobrik, Scarlett Johansen, Chrissy Teigen, David Attenborough, Will Smith, Michelle Obama.
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: Any movie or show involving a dog, happy or sad.
Q: Next goal?
A: Qualifying for the Beijing 2022 Olympics!