Dionne a true champion

To Red Deer’s Olympic medalist Deidra Dionne who has made one of the most difficult decisions in her career — to retire as one of the world’s best freestyle ski aerialists.

To Red Deer’s Olympic medalist Deidra Dionne who has made one of the most difficult decisions in her career — to retire as one of the world’s best freestyle ski aerialists.

Dionne captured the hearts of Central Albertans almost eight years ago. They sat the edge of their seats and watched in astonishment her televised performance in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, which earned her a bronze medal.

It was an electrifying moment for those glued to the television. They yelled, hooted and danced around their TV rooms or the floors of local pubs in celebration when they witnessed through the live broadcast Dionne securing the bronze in Salt Lake City.

In the interviews that followed shortly after the victory, one could not help but be inspired by an ecstatic young athlete who reached for the moon and caught it.

Her beaming face and endless “thank-you’s” spoke volumes of the incomprehensible joy a young person could experience by achieving their ultimate goal. She overcame many hurdles and conquered her Mount Everest during the Olympic moment.

And in the aftermath, she became a wonderful ambassador for her community and her sport.

Sadly, now at the age of 27, Dionne has reluctantly retired this week. She faces another life hurdle — this time a benign brain tumour on her right temporal lobe. It’s non-life-threatening, but enough for her to say enough is enough, and look ahead to attending law school starting next year.

“Life can really seem unfair at times,” Advocate sports reporter Danny Rode confided with Dionne during a very solemn interview on Thursday afternoon.

Rode, honoured as a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame for his dedication in covering sports from the minor levels to world-champion achievements, had followed Dionne’s career meticulously. It was a very difficult interview for him on Friday as she talked about her decision.

Many Central Albertans share the sadness being felt by an outstanding athlete who made the very difficult decision to bow out of world competition.

Dionne’s tumour, while not life-threatening, has the potential to trigger seizures.

“My heart is broken,” she said. “I still have an incredible desire to be a part of the 2010 Olympics (in Vancouver), but the risk I would be taking might jeopardize my chance at a successful life following sport.”

Yes, life can seem to be unfair at times.

But Dionne can look back at her years on the World Cup circuit and take great comfort in knowing, while still at a very young age, she has caught the moon — and many good years lie ahead.

Besides the Olympic bronze, her outstanding achievements include eight freestyle World Cup medals and two bronze world championship medals.

“Deidra has never shied away from a challenge,” said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge. “While this is not the way she intended to end her competitive career, I have no doubt that she will be incredibly successful in the path she takes from here on in.”

Dionne’s comforting character and experience as a public speaker might play an important role in her future. She has used her athletic celebrity to support numerous causes for children and mentally- and physically-challenged athletes, including Right to Play, the Special Olympics and McDonald’s McHappy Day.

Dionne is a champion in sport and life.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

Just Posted

Sunny weather improves farmers’ prospects

A harvester kicking up dust. It’s a picture that will bring a… Continue reading

Rural transit pilot project being considered

Penhold, Innisfail and Red Deer County councils to decide whether to go ahead with project

Red Deer fire station up for sale

Home sweet home at Fire Station 4

Most surveyed Innisfail residents give urban chickens the thumbs up

Town of Innisfail will discuss whether to allow backyard chickens on Monday

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

CALGARY — The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Most Read