Central Alberta Olympians share memories

No longer competing but staying tuned to the action

Former Olympians Mellisa Hollingsworth and Danielle Wotherspoon-Gregg will join millions of Canadians who will be watching the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics on big and small screens.

It’s the first time in years that neither of them will be at the Winter Games — competing or watching.

Hollingsworth, who grew up on a ranch outside Eckville, won bronze in the women’s skeleton event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and 11th at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

She said choosing her favourite Olympics is like asking someone to pick their favourite child.

Ironically, missing out on competing in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake probably had the biggest impact on her career, she said.

“If I had competed at those Games most likely I would have finished middle of the pack and got to have my title of being an Olympian and the jacket. And who knows? That may have been enough for me at that point in time,” said Hollingsworth who retired in 2014.

She said her disappointment actually helped her figure out if the Olympics was something she really wanted to pursue.

“It made me dig a whole lot deeper and put an entire different support group around me. I understood exactly what it took to get there and to be on top. As everybody knows, some of those missteps are necessary to have that success.”

During the PyeongChang Olympics, she actually has other things planned that will occupy a lot of her time. But she’ll keep an eye on friends who are competing and what’s going on in her sport.

“I’ll be watching it here, there, everywhere. We’re so plugged in and connected. I”ll be able to pull up my phone and check in,” Hollingsworth said.

Olympic speed skater Danielle Wotherspoon-Gregg, who placed 33rd in the 500-metre in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, said she will be cheering for teammates she competed with, as well as her brother, Olympic medalist Jeremy Wotherspoon.

“My brother is coaching for Norway so obviously I’m cheering for some of the Norwegians, which is a conflict,” Wotherspoon-Gregg said with a laugh.

“But I still hope for good things for my brother.”

Wotherspoon-Gregg, who has been at every Winter Olympics since 1998, was feeling nostalgic in the days leading up to the opening ceremony.

One of her favourite Olympic memories was participating in the opening ceremony with her husband speedskater Jamie Gregg at the 2014 Games.

“For me walking into the stadium with the rest of the team, and then being right beside my husband, was a pretty awesome experience, a goose-bump moment.”

She said opening ceremony energy can’t be replicated.

“We’re walking out and everyone is looking at us. It’s just a happy moment. No one has had their good or bad moment yet during the games. Everyone is still priming for the event, all their hopes and dreams on the line.

“There’s so many people watching. Your country’s name is called then everyone from your country is smiling and happy,” said the athlete who grew up competing for the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club and retired from the sport in 2014.

It’s one of the biggest shows on earth and it’s all about the athletes, she said.

“A lot of these sports aren’t covered that well between the four years so now you have everyone in the spotlight,” Wotherspoon-Gregg said.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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