When the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia this Friday, three Sudbury athletes will be among those walking into the opening ceremonies under Canada's flag.
Rebecca Johnston, Devon Kershaw and Meagan Duhamel have devoted the better part of their lives to achieving success in their respective sports. Now their dreams are being brought to fruition.
Johnston is making her second trip to the international competition and has a gold medal to defend with the women's hockey team. Those in the know rank the forward in the top six for Team Canada, which means her flare for scoring will have ample opportunity to flourish — she had one goal and five assists at the 2010 Games.
“It's something I've been working hard for,” the 24-year-old said in an interview with Sudbury Sports Magazine. “It's an amazing feeling to be able to r
epresent your country.”
She's heading into the games with a healthy dose of optimism about bringing home Canada's fourth straight Olympic gold medal in women's hockey.
“I don't want to jinx anything, but if we play like we know how ... I think we have a good chance.”
Kershaw is hoping the third time is a charm, set on improving his fourth- and fifth-place finishes at the 2010 Games to land himself on the podium. That would mean rewriting history as the first Canadian male to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.
“I'd like it to be myself, but I feel so committed to the team … that I don't care (which one of us) does it,” he told Sudbury Sports Magazine. “I just want a Canadian man on the podium at the Olympic Games. That would be mission accomplished.”
Kershaw was 1.5 seconds away from having a medal hung around his neck at the 2010 Games in two separate races. The 31-year-old skier has used those three painstaking seconds as fuel over the past four years to push harder. Most notably, he and teammate Alex Harvey won the men's team pursuit with at the world championships in Norway in 2011 — a first for Canada.
And there's more where that came from.
“We could change the face of skiing in the country internationally,” he said. “We can beat the best.”
Duhamel is making her Olympic debut with pairs skating partner Eric Radford. After narrowly missing her chance to compete at the Vancouver games with then partner Craig Buntin, Duhamel was contemplating retirement from the sport. But after a somewhat forced tryout with Radford, she decided to give it one more go.
The duo have been laying it all on the line ever since. They are riding a stellar season into Sochi, which includes defending their national champion status for the third year running with a record-breaking performance in January. They are also the 2013 world bronze medalists.
“Eric and I have taken a long, hard road to get to this point. We have gone through hardship, troubles and frustration, but we always stuck it out,” Duhamel told Sudbury Sports Magazine. “We are looking to be contenders for a medal at the Olympics.”
If they continue nailing their programs and setting records in the process, Duhamel and Radford are a side-by-side triple lutz away from making their Olympic dreams a reality.
These athletes all started at the grassroots level in Sudbury, whether it be the Lady Wolves, Jackrabbits or Walden Skating Club. They've shown hard work and perseverance can take you anywhere. Win or lose, these athletes have all achieved the greatest honour in sport of being selected to represent their country on the international stage.
So get ready to cheer on these exceptional athletes and celebrate as Sudbury heads to the Olympics.
Laurel Myers is managing editor of Sudbury Sports Magazine, a sister publication of Northern Life. Check out the January/February issue of the magazine for more on Sudbury's Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.
When to watch
Women's hockey: Canada vs. Finland
Feb. 10 @ 10 a.m. (ET) on CBC
Feb. 12 @ 7:30 a.m. (ET) on CBC
additional dates/times to be determined
Figure Skating Pairs - Short Program
Feb. 11 @ 10 a.m. (ET) on CBC
Cross-Country Men's Sprint - Qualification
Feb. 11 @ 5:25 a.m (ET) on CBC
15 km classic
Feb. 14 @ 5 a.m. (ET) on CBC
Feb. 16 @ 5 a.m. (ET) on CBC
Feb. 19 @ 4:15 a.m. (ET) on CBC
Feb. 23 @ 2 a.m. (ET) on CBC