Red Deer Olympian Deidra Dionne has faced a number of hurdles over her 15-year freestyle ski career that’s affected her life and career.
In every case she’s battled back, but her latest hurdle is not one that can be easily shaken.
It was discovered during a summer training session in Quebec that the 27-year-old aerialist has a benign brain tumor on her right temporal lobe.
Dionne discovered there was a problem when she woke up one day with a black eye, facial wounds and bruises on her body.
“I contacted our medial staff and they took me to the Royal Vic in Montreal where I had further tests and a MRI of my brain,” she explained. “Thankfully the ECG was normal, but the MRI wasn’t.”
She talked with a number of advisors following the news and made the difficult decision to retire from the sport, which was officially announced at a press conference in Vancouver today.
“It wasn’t an easy decision . . . it’s not something I wanted to do, but talking with a number of advisors it was a decision that’s best for my future,” she said in a telephone interview. “There’s a time when every athlete has to move on and I believe this is the time for me now.
“My heart is broken as I still have an incredible desire to be part of the 2010 Olympics (in Vancouver), but the risk I would be taking might jeopardize my chance at a successful life following sport.”
The positive aspect of the news was that the tumor was benign.
“Initially I was worried about my long-term health . . . if it was cancer and how my life would change, but that wasn’t the case so that was a huge relief,” she added.
Dionne is not one to sit back and let the news destroy her life. She’s always been a fighter as she displayed following a broken neck in September of 2005. She came back from the injury to compete in the 2006 Olympics in Italy and also stepped back on the World Cup podium with a silver medal in 2008.
“I fought many battles over my 15 year career, but coming back from the broken neck is the one I’m most proud of,” she said.
Dionne will handle this hurdle in the same manner as previous setbacks.
“I look forward to new challenges. I always pride myself on my outlook and attitude to adversity and I believe this will be no different.”
She won’t need surgery, but will take medications to prevent any seizures.
“It’s something I could have had since birth,” she said. “The MRI showed it’s slow growing and in a place where it doesn’t have to be addressed for now. I’ll just follow up with medication and no more aerials.”
Dionne has every right to be proud of her career. She won bronze in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, has two third-place medals at the World Championships to go with four silver and four bronze on the World Cup circuit.
“The Olympic bronze is the highlight of my career,” she said. “But the two Olympic Games, two World Championship medals and the number of podium finishes on the World Cup will always be a reminder of all the many hours of training and work with my coaches that I spent in perfecting my jumps.
‘I’m also extremely proud to have been able to represent my country, proud of being a member of the national team and so proud of the way we Canadians conduct ourselves. I’m proud for being a Canadian and always will be.”
Although she won’t be competing, Dionne will be waving the Canadian flag at the 2010 Games.
“I hope there will always be a place for me in the Olympic family,” she said. “I feel I’m passing the torch to a group of inspired, talented young women who will continue to push the limits in women’s aerials. I have a lot of friends on the team and I’m already excited for their opportunity come February (in Vancouver). I’ll be there cheering for them.”
As part of looking back Dionne wanted to thank a number of people that contributed to her career, especially her family, the people in Red Deer and her teammates and coaches over the years.
“There have been so many people who have helped me become the individual I became,” she said. “And I received so much support from everyone in Red Deer and from so many sponsors, including Door Masters and MGM Ford Lincoln.”
Dionne has already earned a bachelor of arts degree and plans on attending law school in the fall of 2010.
“This is a strange way to finish this part of my career but hopefully I find something I’ll be as passionate about in the future.”
As for now she’ll return to Quebec City, pick up her car and return to Kelowna where she plans on relaxing and looking at her future.
“It’ll give me a bit of time away from the spotlight and a chance to relax,” she concluded.