Olympic hero inspires Calgary Christian School students

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Catriona Le May Doan prepares to drop the puck for the faceoff of the opening floor hockey game between host Calgary Christian School (in pink) and Haysboro School.

CALGARY – It was her Olympic medals and a laundry list of other shining accomplishments that brought Catriona Le May Doan to speak before hundreds of students at Calgary Christian School’s Elementary Campus.

The former speed skating sensation – once dubbed the “fastest woman on ice” – spoke most passionately, however, about the life lessons she learned from a stumble.

Le May Doan said whether you win or whether you fall down and get back up, the moment doesn’t define you.

“It’s about having that trust that there is a plan for each one of us,” she said, before dropping the puck for the opening faceoff of the school’s floor hockey fundraiser. “And whether it’s a podium with a medal on it, or whether it’s a podium to speak from, there’s going to be a podium for each one of us to be able to talk about what has happened in our lives.”

Le May Doan left home at 17 to join the national team and follow her dream of winning an Olympic medal. She thought her first trip to the Olympics in Albertville, France in 1992 had set her up for the big moment at the next Winter Games.

Ranked fifth in the world by then, she envisioned a podium finish shared with family members who flown to Lillehammer, Norway to watch all her hard work and commitment pay off.

“I was going to race my 500-metre race, win a medal, and they’d say, ‘we’re so proud of you,’ ” Le May Doan recalled of her thoughts on race day. “I know they love me, but they really, really love me today because they’re proud of me.”

Instead, with one lap to go, she fell. She got back up and finished the race to place dead last among the entire field of 33.

“I was upset. I was angry. I was even jealous. I wanted something that other people had,” said Le May Doan.

The six elementary school teams from across Calgary – which included a second Palliser Regional Schools entry from Heritage Christian Academy – heard how she questioned her faith and pondered what she had done to deserve such a punishment.

“I thought I had this great relationship with Jesus. But does that mean everything goes perfectly in life?” she asked the students. “Nope.”

Over the next couple of years Le May Doan came to realize the only thing she could control were her own actions. She would win a gold and bronze medal in Nagano, Japan in 1998 and followed up with another podium finish in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002, to make her the only Canadian woman ever to defend an Olympic gold medal.

“I hadn’t changed, but I trusted. If that’s what He wanted, then I was there,” she said.

Le May Doan went on to become an award-winning broadcaster and has been presented with the “incredible opportunity” to tour the country and share her story over the years since. Yet she told the players, and the rest of the Calgary Christian School population acting as spectators, that she was inspired by their efforts to help others.

Proceeds from the fundraiser are going to a WinSport program which helps new Canadians integrate into the Calgary community by introducing them to snow sports.

Last year the floor hockey tournament raised more than $12,000 for JumpStart, a charity which helps kids in financial need participate in organized sport. Last year’s special guest, two-time Olympic gold medalist with the national women’s hockey team, Meaghan Mikkelson, was at the school earlier in the week for a staff vs. student floor hockey game.