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Six things you didn’t know about our Olympic short track team

Six things you didn’t know about our Olympic short track team

By Callum Ng

The Canadian Olympic Team roster for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games is officially taking shape. Today we introduce to you the first nominees to the team that will march behind the flag into Fisht Stadium on February 7: Your short track speed skaters.

Out of the 10 athletes nominated, six are returning team members from Vancouver 2010, where the Canadian crew captured five medals.

There is no question Speed Skating Canada athletes are an international threat, but here are a few things you may not know about these 10 Canadian speedsters: (Hint: Chuck Norris, rabbits and ice fishing just scratch the surface.)

1. They’re Superstitious

Have you ever wondered what Short Track skaters wear under their uniforms? Ok, maybe a strange question but it has an answer.

Marianne St-Gelais brings along a necklace from her grandmother as a competition good luck charm.

Veteran Olivier Jean rocks t-shirts with famous faces including Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee or Rambo.

26 year-old Jessica Hewitt also owns a few lucky t-shirts. She tells us her favourite has a wolf on it and she’s had it since age 6. We’re not sure if it still fits.

2. They’re Smart

In the sport of Short Track it isn’t always the fastest skater who wins but the smartest. Strategy is important.

Remember Steven Bradbury?

It’s a fact that almost all of Canada’s Olympic Short Track Speed Skating team are working on or finished post-secondary studies.

The team has an impressive list of academic pursuits and achievements. There is business savvy, kinesiology expertise, a Bachelor of Arts or two and even a budding naturopath.

Sounds like a formidable Jeopardy team.

3. Inspiration Comes From Everywhere

The day-to-day grind for an Olympic athlete is tough. To thrive, Short Track team members take inspiration from everywhere.

2-time Olympic Silver Medallist St. Gelais lists a few track stars as her idols including Canadian hurdling star Perdita Felicien and legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine.

Skater’s Best Friend? Hewitt has a rabbit named Flicka. Unfortunately we don’t have a bio page yet for Flicka.

Lachenaie, Quebec’s Jean says reggae makes him skate faster. His teammates have even nicknamed the once dread-locked skater the “Jamaicanadian”. Faster mon!

Edmontonian Jessica Gregg caught the Olympic fever after watching Catriona Le May Doan skate her victory lap at Salt Lake 2002.

22 year-old Charle Cournoyer woke up early every day to watch speed skating at Nagano 1998.

4. It Runs in the Family

The love for speed and ice runs deep. The Sochi 2014 team includes brothers Charles and François Hamelin. Not to mention father Yves who is Speed Skating Canada’s Short Track program director.

Cournoyer learned the sport from big brother Vincent who is also on the National Team.

Michael Gilday’s love for skating has turned into a family affair.  His father David is a level three coach and mom Pam Dunbar runs Northwest Territories Speed Skating. In 2007 they were awarded the Gagné Family Award for contributions to the sport.

The Gregg family resumé adds up to some serious ice time. Jessica’s mom Kathy went to Innsbruck 1976 and Lake Placid 1980 as a long track speed skater. Jessica’s Dad Randy Gregg played for Canada at Lake Placid 1980 and again at Calgary 1988. Gregg also just happened to win 5 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. And not to be outdone, older brother Jamie Gregg was a member of the Olympic team at Vancouver 2010.

5. They Love Winter

If you grow up in Canada a love for winter is a natural thing. Catching Canadians outside in the winter is just as likely as seeing our Short Track team on the podium in Sochi.

Marie-Ève Drolet spends her chilly months snowshoeing and ice fishing in Northern Quebec. For some fun training outside you might find Gilday cross-country skiing, especially since his sporting idol is two-time Olympic medallist Beckie Scott.

Both Jessica’s spend some of their winters on the hill. Hewitt likes to snowboard and Gregg enjoys skiing.

6. Words Are Power

And finally, here are some of the words that motivate your 2014 Sochi Short Track Olympians:

Valérie Maltais:
“Who lives without folly, is not as wise as he thinks.” – François de La Rochefoucauld

Jessica Hewitt:
“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke

Jessica Gregg:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

Michael Gilday:
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Confucius

By Callum Ng

Senior Writer/Producer for Olympic.ca: I tell sport stories. I also like songs and dim sum. Liable to be found rink side, track side, pool side, any side.

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