Supporting Canadian Athletes

Deidra Dionne

Like many Canadians growing up in Red Deer, Alberta, Deidra Dionne was introduced to the sport of skiing at the tender age of four. After discovering freestyle skiing aerials when she was thirteen, Deidra excelled quickly in the sport, and is currently a medal contender for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Deidra was born in North Battleford, SK and was raised in Red Deer, AB where she spent her childhood being shuttled from one sport to the next. She grew up with two brothers and very active parents “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in sport!” exclaims Deidra.

Deidra’s dreams of representing Canada at the Olympics began taking form when she won multiple gold medals at the Junior National Championships and Alberta Games before the age of sixteen. At seventeen, she made the National Development team and brought home a bronze and silver medal from her first two World Cups. Her success continued to skyrocket when she joined Canada’s senior national team and attended her first Olympic Games two years later where she won bronze in Salt Lake City.

Deidra attributes part of her success to the support she has always received from her parents. ”My parents have had the greatest impact on my life. They have helped me achieve my goals every step of the way and have been nothing but supportive and understanding in doing so”, states Deidra.

Although her podium success at the 2002 Olympics was a huge accomplishment for Deidra, she considers her participation in the Torino 2006 Olympic Games to be her biggest achievement.

Five months before the 2006 Olympics began, Deidra experienced what would become the largest set back of her life. While training on Mount Buller, Australia, she crashed on the landing of one of her jumps and broke her neck. After four days of uncertainty, she underwent a seven hour operation to fuse her spine back together with a titanium plate, screws, and a piece of her hip bone.

Amazingly, she walked out of the hospital shortly after her surgery and began intense rehab in order to continue training for the Games. She showed great determination when just five months later, she hurled herself down the mountain on the Olympic stage in Turin, Italy. With a titanium plate and screws holding her neck together, she flew over a ramp at 55 miles per hour and corkscrewed through the air. “I have always enjoyed facing challenges head on. Having the ability to overcome obstacles makes me a stronger athlete and person, and this was definitely the biggest challenge I have ever faced”, explains Deidra.

Although she did not qualify for the final, Deidra reflects, “I made the team and did horribly on the score sheet but I competed with the same jump I had hurt myself doing just a few months earlier and that was a huge success for me. It was the toughest event of my life”.

When asked how she controls the memory of the crash when she prepares for a jump, Deidra responds “It comes about by managing those thoughts and making sure when you’re training, you’re 100 percent mentally committed to what you’re doing. It’s about managing that fear and putting it into the right train of thought so that the fear reminds you to do things properly and well rather than allowing the nerves to take over and jumping poorly”.

Deidra has been described as one of the most inspirational figures in Canadian sporting history. A title easily exhibited through her journey from operating room to the top of the Olympic mountain, in just five short months.

Deidra has always demonstrated the qualities of a leader, both on and off the ski hill. As a passionate, opinionated and outspoken individual, she is not afraid to tell people what she thinks, especially when it comes to sport. Her initial athlete leadership experience began when she attended her first AthletesCAN Forum in 2002.

“Forum opened up my eyes to sport. I was shocked at how many different athletes there were and even though I am an avid sport fan, I had no idea there were so many sports! I think it shows how amateur sport is not always on the radar. It was also great to speak with all those different athletes and get their perspectives on the different issues we are all faced with”, says Deidra.

The AthletesCAN Forum gave her a different perspective on sport and also inspired her to run for the Canadian Olympic Committee Athlete Council, which she has been a member of since 2006. Deidra was also the athlete rep for Freestyle Skiing from 2002 to 2003. She is committed to doing everything in her power to make sure the athlete voice is heard.

Deidra has no problem balancing athlete leadership with training. “It’s not hard to find time for something that brings you joy”, says Deidra. She feels that being an athlete leader is a good way to keep in touch with the sport world and finds it inspiring to meet so many different athletes. Deidra is always looking to gain knowledge and feedback from other sports and apply it to help athletes within her own sport; a type of education every athlete should experience.

Deidra is an active member of her community and believes in giving back whenever she can. She has spoken in over one hundred different schools, sharing her experiences and goal setting techniques with children of all ages. “Sharing my experiences in sport and the lessons I have learned from overcoming my accident in 2005 is my way of giving back and contributing positively to the community”, states Deidra. Despite her busy training schedule, she is also actively involved with Red Deer’s Special Olympians, the Children’s Services Centre and Right to Play.

Deidra has aspirations beyond the ski hill and education has always been a priority for her. She graduated from the National Sport School in Calgary a year ahead of her peers in 1999 and recently finished her Bachelor of Arts from Athabasca University. She recently wrote her LSAT and plans to apply to law school after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. She would like to study international law, with the hopes of working in human rights.

Deidra says in order to prepare herself for the 2010 Games in Vancouver, she is focusing on one jump at a time, one day at a time, and one competition at a time. “With an incredible support team, I’m making sure the four year plan is followed by pushing each and every day as every jump counts”, she says.

With two Olympics under her belt, Deidra is using her past experience while she trains to bring home a gold medal on home turf in 2010. Competing at home for Deidra is always special. “I’m always more nervous competing at home because I really want to do well. I actually like having more nerves to channel because it gives me a heightened desire to compete and deliver”, says Deidra.

One of her goals for 2010 includes competing with the best jumps in her repertoire and completing them to the best of her ability. “I truly believe that accomplishing these objectives gives me the potential to bring home a medal”, she says.

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