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Olympic dreams come true, thanks to Mom

Olympic dreams come true, thanks to Mom

On this Mother’s Day, siblings and Olympic speed skaters Jamie and Jessica Gregg have a hard time wondering where they would be in their career if it wasn’t for their mom Kathy.

“Her love of sport and her lifestyle ignited my passion,” said Jessica. “I learned to love skating through her. You work hard, but you do it because you love it.”

Kathy played several roles when her kids were growing up. Mother, wife, chef, trainer and role model were just a few. But as one-time Olympic speed skater herself, the biggest impact in her children’s sporting life may have been when she became their coach.

For Jamie, 28, and Jessica, 25, their journeys to Vancouver 2010 would start under their mom’s watchful eye at the Edmonton Speed Skating Club.

The entire Gregg family poses with the Stanley Cup with father Randy. / Photo courtesy of Gregg family.

Their father Randy, a two-Olympian and NHL hockey player, was on the road a lot travelling with the Oilers during the early parts of their lives. Kathy would naturally have a lot influence on her kids as they were growing up.

Both parents represented Canada decades before them and had passed on many great memories of their Olympic experience.

“It was instilled in us as kids that representing your country is the highest honour,” said Jamie. “The Olympics growing up was the best you could do and the highest achievement. That was my dream as a kid to represent Canada there.”

The parents let their children dabble in many sports before focusing on one. However, the future Olympians would get their start in speed skating at the ages of six (Jamie) and five (Jessica) respectively.

“We had a very normal childhood for kids with two Olympians as parents,” said Jamie. “I think other kids had more demanding parents growing up than I did. With them being involved before, I think it gave them a better perspective about the pressure that can be put on children. They let us do our own thing and succeed.”

Kathy would have the right mixture of seriousness and playfulness as a coach to keep the kids interested. She would invite all their friends to train with them, figuring having friends around would push them to go to practise more.

“(My mom is) really good technically and sees things that I was doing wrong,” said Jamie. “Growing up she used to put in a lot of games to keep us into it. All the kids respond well to her. She makes sure people are enjoying themselves while passing on her knowledge.”

Humble and modest, Kathy never bragged about her experiences on the world stage. The topic only came up as a motivational tool for the kids.

“Growing up I knew she had been to the Olympics,” said Jessica. “But she never really brought it up unless it was to motivate us. She’s my mom and I wanted to be like her and my goal was to be at the Olympics. She knew what it would take and the dedication it required.”

Kathy’s proper balancing act of mom and coach helped them along the way.

“She’s never put pressure on me and is always there to support me,” said Jamie. “The fact that she has done this herself gives me confidence and listen to what she has to say. She knows what she’s talking about and I appreciate the advice she gives me.”

Both siblings added their mother is the reason as to why they have been so successful.

“I’d say thank you for making me who I am,” said Jamie, referencing his mom. “I couldn’t have achieved anything I’ve done without her.”

Early Building Blocks

An Olympic breeding program; you could blame the Edmonton based Gregg family for such a funny thought. After all, the parents have such impressive pedigrees.

(From left to right) Ryan, Jamie, Jessica and Sarah. / Photo courtesy of Gregg family.

Father Randy, a nine-season NHL pro and the winner of five Stanley Cups with the Oiler dynasty of the 90s, was part of the Olympic program and represented Canada at the 1980 Lake Placid Games and in Calgary in 1988.

In Lake Placid, Randy would meet his future wife – Kathy Voigt, a speed skater competing in her second consecutive Winter Games for Canada. Together the couple would eventually have four kids – sons Jamie and Ryan, followed by daughters Jessica and Sarah.

Ryan flourished in baseball – playing for the University of Calgary – while the other three siblings followed in their mother’s footsteps and excelled at speed skating. Jamie and Jessica made their Olympic debut in 2010 with Jessica winning the first medal for the Greggs –silver in the 3000m relay.

“We’ve both been high level athletes and we wanted our kids to be involved because we got so much out of it,” said Kathy. “But it never crossed our minds how good they’d be.”

Travelling the World

Now Kathy and Randy spend a lot of their time travelling as two of the most dedicated parents you’ll find on the speed skating tour. They consider themselves to be lucky enough to have the means to travel the world and continue to watch their kids skate.

Having a taste of home is sometimes the advantage Jamie and Jessica need during the big events in which they compete.

(From left to right) Kathy, Jamie and Jessica. / Photo courtesy of Gregg family.

“They come out and support almost all my races and travels around the world,” said Jamie. “It’s really great having my parents there. I love trying to find them in the crowd with their Canadian flag. It gives me a little sense of home and allows me to relax.”

The entire Gregg family did not have far to travel to see Jamie and Jessica walk into the Olympic Stadium in 2010. The parents were in the crowd and Kathy was especially excited to see them representing the family in a sport in which she had once excelled.

“As a skater I realized how close it is to making it and not making it,” said Kathy. “Whether they made it or not, you’re proud of how hard they’ve worked and all the sacrifices they’ve made.”

Most recently, Kathy and Randy travelled to Sochi for a World Cup test event to watch Jamie compete. They have already marked down when they will go when their children hopefully qualify for their second consecutive Olympic Game

If everything goes as planned, the family will have to book another flight to Sochi in February 2014 to see their kids compete at the Adler Arena and become two-time speed skating Olympians…just like their mom.

-          George Fadel

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