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20 Feb 2015
IOC News

Kelly Vanderbeek : Harnessing the energy of the Games

For Kelly Vanderbeek, taking part in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin was an intense experience. In our latest video in the “Words of Olympians” series, the Canadian Alpine skier describes how proud she felt to take part.

Canada’s Kelly Vanderbeek first told her parents she wanted to become a competitive skier and take part in the Olympic Winter Games when she was just nine. “At the time they found it funny, but they didn’t stand in my way.”

And so she joined the national Alpine ski team, competing with them as a junior in her first international competitions and winning two super-G bronze medals at the Junior World Championships in 2002 and 2003. She continued to represent her country until 2012, bowing out after a World Cup event at Rosa Khutor, site of the Alpine skiing events at Sochi 2014.

Vanderbeek placed in the top ten 22 times and three times gained a place within the top three. She was the first Canadian to make the podium on home soil, coming third in the downhill course at Lake Louise on 13 December 2006. At the beginning of the same year, she competed at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin and on 20 February narrowly missed out on a podium position in San Sicario, finishing just 0.03 seconds behind Austrian bronze medal winner Alexandra Meissnitzer. This came only four days after finishing 24th in the downhill. She remembers these moments as the highlights of her career.

In this video, Vanderbeek explains how “the Olympic Games create this sort of energy, especially before the beginning of the trials. You can feel all this nervousness, particularly if you’re listening to what’s going on. Then there are the athletes, the trainers and the Organising Committee, it’s like everyone is holding their breath and so excited that you can almost feel it in the air. For me that was a really intense feeling and very special… typically Olympic!”

She says that for those lucky enough to compete, the Games are like nothing else: “Representing your country at the Olympic Games is such an honour: to wear your national flag – and for us, the Maple Leaf – it fills you with a pride that is difficult to describe,” enthuses Vanderbeek, who is now a professional speaker, photographer, television personality, wife of four-time canoe/kayak Olympian David Ford, not to mention a mother.

“And knowing that you will have an impact on the future generations of young people growing up watching you, that’s a powerful emotion. I hope I measured up to that honour. When I realised I was an Olympian, I felt so proud and grateful and that helped me pull through after my fall and my injury,” she adds.

Vanderbeek suffered a horrific fall on 17 December 2009 during downhill training at the OK in Val d’Isère. Serious injury to her left knee meant that she would never realise her dream of competing at home in the 2010 Vancouver Games. But she pulled through and returned to compete in the last four races of her sporting career at the FIS World Cup in January 2012.

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