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1. When did you start playing the sport of rugby?
I grew up in Prince Edward Island. At my high school, there was men’s and women’s soccer, so I played soccer; there was men’s and women’s basketball, so I played basketball; there was men’s and women’s rugby, so I played rugby. I really didn’t think much about it, especially after having watched my older sister play it for 3 years before me! I started playing 7s when I was 15 years old, in the spring at the end of my first year of high school. For my last two years of high school, I then played 13s! Yes, that’s right! We didn’t play with flankers! It wasn’t until my last two years of university at the age of 20 that I actually played proper 15-a-side rugby!
After university, I played in two games for the Canadian Women’s Under-23 team against the USA – U-23 team, and then played for a season in Ireland. I then moved to Trinidad and Tobago to work for a few years and did some coaching. After about 3 years of not playing much, I moved back to Canada in 2004 to start my Masters and decided to try playing again, so I started playing on the Toronto Scottish club team, then was asked by my coach to tryout for the Ontario provincial team. It was in a game against Quebec that summer that I was noticed by one of the National Senior Women’s coaches, and I was invited to a development game against the USA. My first international tour (and first two caps for Canada) was to England in November of 2004, and I’ve been playing for the team ever since.
In March 2008, I went on my first international tour to Hong Kong with the Canadian Women’s 7s team. It was amazing and I loved every bit of it. It’s a game that really suits my strengths, and I can see how improving in the game of 7s will improve my game of 15s even more. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities!
2. How did you first get involved with the sport of bobsleigh?
Like most bobsledders, I was recruited from another sport. A track coach from McGill University, who had done bobsledding in the past, was asked to do some recruiting for Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS). He said I immediately came to mind after I competed against his team as a sprinter, as well as knowing my background in rugby. He first contacted me around May 2001, using the 2002 Park City Olympics as a pitch. I had, however, already committed to an internship position as a Disability Sports Program Officer in Trinidad and Tobago. It was more a dream of mine to do work in a developing country than it was to go to the Olympics for a sport I really knew nothing about.
After working in Trinidad for almost 3 years, I moved back to Canada in 2004 to start my Masters in Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto. Towards the end of the first year of the 2-year professional program, I attended my old track coach’s retirement party. That same coach from McGill was there – exactly 4 years after last trying to recruit me – and started to persuade me all over again. At that point, I was already trying to balance my Masters program with commitments for the National Senior Women’s Rugby team (for which I was selected in the fall of 2004). Because of these commitments, I could only go to Calgary for testing at the end of August 2005. I ended up doing extremely well in the testing, and was then approached by two different drivers/pilots. I had less than a week to decide if I was going to try this new sport, for whom I was going to push that year, and apply (and get approval) for a one-year ‘Leave of Absence’ from my program. And that’s what I did!
3. Which sport do you like better? Rugby or bobsleigh?
People ask me this question all the time, and it’s a tough one to answer. Both sports are just so extremely different from one another. Rugby is more than just a sport – it’s a culture, which people who’ve played rugby for awhile can truly understand. Rugby has become part of who I am, and although I have pursued other things in my life, I have always come back to it.
With bobsleigh, I initially fell in love with the challenge – can I learn a new sport; can I learn to do it well; and can I learn to do it well in less than 5 months for the Torino Olympic Games? Our 4th place finish at the 2006 Games, however, instilled in me a determination like no other. With bobsleigh, it is now more than just the challenge that keeps me going back for more. I just know that, although both sports are very different, they fulfill different needs and passions within me, and, at this moment in time, I could not choose between the two!
4. How often are you on the road? How does this affect your personal life?
I am home for about 3-4 months of the year, but within that time I’m also travelling for testing/training camps in Montreal and Calgary for bobsleigh, as well as some weekends for club/provincial rugby games. This schedule definitely makes it difficult to lead any kind of a normal life and, as this is all relatively new to me, it’s taking a bit of getting used to. I’m just lucky that I have a very supportive family and friends, who definitely make this lifestyle easier to live.
5. Do you come from an athletic family?
Yes, I would have to say that I do. Although my father didn’t really compete in sports growing up, my mother used to compete in volleyball, track, and basketball. I recently discovered that my grandmother also played basketball when she was younger. My older sister played Varsity basketball for 4 years and played provincial rugby for Ontario with me for a few years. Although she had a baby in the summer of 2006, she still plays club rugby with me in Toronto. My ‘little’ brother (who’s 6’11” or 210cm) played Varsity basketball for five years and is currently playing professional basketball in Switzerland. I would definitely have to say that I come from an athletic family!
6. How does the training differ, or complement each other between sports?
I feel that the training for both sports complement each other quite well. The strength and speed training is pretty much the same for both sports. The only difference is that I have to build/maintain my endurance to last an entire rugby game or tournament. My endurance for bobsleigh is a very powerful 6 seconds, which is not quite enough for rugby. Interval training has been the best way to accomplish this, adding anywhere from 1-3 of these sessions per week, depending on the bobsleigh training schedule.
7. Is it scary going down the bobsleigh track?
Well, it depends on the track (as some are much faster and rougher than others)…… and it definitely depends on the driver!
8. Have you ever crashed in a bobsleigh?
So far I’ve been pretty fortunate, and have only crashed twice in two seasons of sliding. The first time was on the Torino (Cesana, Italy) track in December 2005, and really wasn’t very serious at all. The second crash was on the Cortina (Italy) track in January 2008.
9. Do you have a life philosophy?
There are a few quotes that I think reflect my life philosophy:
“The opportunity of a lifetime must be taken within the lifetime of the opportunity.”
“By facing our challenges, we discover our potential.”
“Possibilities are everywhere.”
10. What work did you do in Trinidad and Tobago?
I went to Trinidad and Tobago as a Disability Sports Program Officer through the internship with Commonwealth Games Canada, using sport as a medium for development. I worked with the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education to develop and implement sporting programs/events for students with various disabilities. I planned and held a workshop for teachers of “Special” schools, as well as a seminar for the Physical Training Instructors for the National Defence Force of Trinidad and Tobago on movement analysis and adaptation to sport. I also founded, organized, established, and directed Camp ABLE (Active Bodies, Leadership & Esteem): a sports leadership development camp for teenaged students who are deaf or hearing-impaired from various Caribbean countries.
During my time in Trinidad, I also coached girls/women in rugby and developed a league for development. I also worked as a consultant for the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of Disabled Peoples’ International, preparing and presenting a proposal to the Government to implement an incentive system for public transportation for wheelchair users.
It is really this line of work about which I am truly passionate. I believe that sport is a wonderful medium for development – individual development, group development, community development, and national and international development. Lessons can be learned, eyes can be opened, and barriers can be overcome – it can be a better world because of sport.