Supporting Canadian Athletes

Vaughn Chipeur

Singles figure skater and Calgary resident Vaughn Chipeur grew up in Lloydminster, Alberta, but insists that he was technically born in the hospital on the Saskatchewan side of the city. Today, Vaughn is one of Canada’s 2010 Olympic hopefuls, not only representing his hometown, but the entire country.

From a young age, Vaughn loved sport because it brought out his competitive nature. “I was always really competitive as a kid,” Vaughn says, “I’m really competitive in everything I do and sport is a great outlet for it.” Growing up, hockey was the most popular sport to play in Vaughn’s community, so it was on the ice that he harnessed his competitive spirit.

Despite living in a hockey town, Vaughn was willingly coached into the competitive figure skating stream of his local skating club after learning how to skate in a CanSkate program at the age of 10. Hockey may have been the more popular sport in the community at the time, but Vaughn says he did not grow up in a family that was significantly loyal to the sport. “Neither of my parents were athletes nor did they have an especially athletic family history in hockey, let alone sport, so I definitely found my own path,” explains Vaughn.

It wasn’t until Vaughn was 20 years old and taking time off from competition to coach and give back to his sport that he realized how much he missed training and competing. He knew there was a slim chance of getting back to the competitive level needed to succeed if he waited any longer, so he decided to give it his all one more time before making the decision to retire for good. Vaughn describes the experience that followed, “Luckily, I achieved some success and doors began opening which made skating seem like less of a dream and more like a lifestyle and career that I could really pursue.”

The journey was neither simple nor quick. “I had good results but nothing really significant. I just got a little bit better as I got older and began taking it more seriously and training harder.” Vaughn explains. “Sticking with it” and personal growth were very important for his skating development as every improvement came with time. “Slowly, I set bigger goals for myself and eventually skating became a full time job. Growing as a person and maturing really helped me to get to where I am now. I was a late bloomer in the skating world.”

In 2008, Vaughn achieved one of his career highlights to date by finishing 2nd at the national championships and qualifying for the World Championships. He followed that up with silver at the 2009 Canadian Championships. On a personal level, being a part of Team Canada for the first World Team Trophy event in the sport’s history was one of Vaughn’s favorite moments to date. Vaughn explains, “It’s really hard to describe the feeling of representing Canada on the world stage. I did not have time to think about how it felt until after the event. It was really spectacular and I look back on the experience with great appreciation. There’s no better country to represent than Canada because the fan support is tremendous and our drive for excellence is so strong without compromising true sport values.”

When asked about support throughout his journey, Vaughn praised his family for always being there for him, and was quick to name his biggest fan. “My mom is my biggest supporter, bar none. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Vaughn’s older brother Ashley, who also skated, served as motivation for him. Vaughn explains, “My Mother, Leanne, worked really hard and made a lot of sacrifices, but I got lucky with certain training and competition opportunities which I think ultimately was the big difference between us.”

Aside from coaching, Vaughn’s first experience with athlete leadership occurred in 2008 when Skate Canada chose him to be the official athlete representative for his sport and to attend the 2008 AthletesCAN Forum in Mississauga, Ontario. “I was really interested in athlete leadership when I learned about AthletesCAN and its programs,” says Vaughn. “I really liked the idea of Forum and being around other high performance athletes from different sports. It was all about coming together, sharing, and the bond that Canadian athletes have regardless of their sport. It was a big motivator for me and I hope to motivate others in a similar way “, he adds.”Also, I think that Skate Canada has a lot of insight to offer other sports because it is one of the more developed National Sport Organizations (NSO) in our country. I think it is great to be able to pass on anything that helps another Canadian sport to further its development.”

Vaughn was first introduced to AthletesCAN when he joined the national team and became eligible for programs and services of support provided by the association. “I wanted to know where the services came from and I heard that a fellow figure skater, Aaron Lowe, was a former Board Member, so I talked to him about the organization and that got the ball rolling.” It was only after the Forum that Vaughn attained a complete understanding of AthletesCAN. Vaughn found Forum extremely motivating and rewarding. “I felt incredibly privileged to be there. I would say the greatest aspect was the sense of general athlete awareness. The opportunity to get together with elite athletes from a broad range of sports was a huge eye opener” he added. “Coming from figure skating, I found a new appreciation for the opportunities that I was afforded that other athletes from different sports do not have.” Vaughn plans to attend Forum again this year despite a strenuous training and competition schedule.

Like all 2010 Olympic hopefuls, Vaughn is training harder than ever. “Figure skating is a judged sport which makes sport specific training very tough, but I am mainly focusing on being prepared for any situation or outcome by working with my sport psychologist, coaches, nutritionist, and other trainers.” Both on and off-ice training for Vaughn has been enhanced to a new level. He spent most of July in Colorado Springs for more than just the altitude. Vaughn explains, “The most important benefit from training in Colorado is the competitive environment which really helps my mental preparation for 2010.” Vaughn will be back in Canada in August for competition, then returns to Colorado for training before the Grand Prix series. “I am really preparing myself in every possible way to qualify for the Olympics in January because right now, that is my main objective.” Other goals Vaughn is striving for include performing clean programs throughout the season and achieving his peak performance at the right time. “I think last year I got pretty close to my potential and this year my goal is to really accomplish that.”

Vaughn is also a leader in his community in other areas. He works with youth as a part of the Calgary based Kids Care Cancer Foundation and played a large role in the annual benefit they host to increase the awareness of the prevalence of cancer in today’s youth. This year’s event took place in March and raised over one million dollars for cancer research where Vaughn acted as an athlete spokesperson and performed on artificial ice in the hotel convention centre. Kids Care is one of Vaughn’s most rewarding volunteer activities along with helping out around his home skating club. “It means a lot to me to give back to the people who supported me for so long. I coach whenever I can and fill in for coaches when needed. I find all volunteering really satisfying.” Vaughn tends to stick to community events within the realm of skating because skating requires most of his time. However, Vaughn assures us, “If other opportunities were to come up, I would definitely greet them with open arms.” When Vaughn is back in Calgary in August he hopes to make an appearance at the Kids Care Cancer Foundation summer camp and help host another event for the Foundation.

When asked about balancing training and athlete leadership initiatives, Vaughn responded, “I think you make time for things you believe are worthwhile to be involved with and I have a rule that ‘if you don’t have time, you make time’. Once I saw how satisfying volunteering was, I wanted to do it more often, so I make time around my training to be a part of causes and events that I am passionate about” he adds.

Vaughn will find time to attend the 2009 AthletesCAN Forum in Richmond, BC on October 1st to 4th where he hopes to “inspire and be inspired”. Vaughn says, “At Forum I am reminded that I am not just an athlete, but an athlete leader and a role model as well. Last year, Forum inspired me to motivate other athletes and to use my athlete status as a way to give back to the community.”

Vaughn is certainly an athlete to look out for on the ice, on the podium, and in society making a difference.

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