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The pursuit of excellence

Fri, Feb  15, 2008 - By Shauna Maria Whyte

Shauna Maria Whyte is a member of Team 2008 on the Para-Nordic Ski Team.

“What are you truly passionate about in life?” A fellow traveller asked on a transatlantic flight and I answered that I was an athlete and listed off my accomplishments including able-bodied Canadian Junior Women’s Biathlon Champion, and then after a spinal cord injury have been multiple World Cup winner in both Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon and one of the fastest women in the world handbiking as an athlete with a disability. But after the plane had cut through time zones and touched down to a new World Cup journey in Europe, the question remained with me. I wondered, did my pocket full of results really translate into my passion in life?

Shauna Maria Whyte is a member of Team 2008 on the Para-Nordic Ski TeamThe answer didn’t come while chasing podium results across the continents but rather through these moments and also those of the everyday. Hearing the wind rustle through the trees as I put on my skis, testing my limits on the hills at the Hinton Nordic Ski Center even when there isn’t a soul in sight, the smell of glider wax at 10pm, the swimming pool at 6:30am, fields of apple trees in bloom along hours of spring farm roads that my bike and I zip along…the answer was in the every moment search of excellence with the goal of watching our Canadian National Flag fly proud as that search ends on the podium.

What I am truly passionate about is the pursuit of excellence in life and in the sports that I love. It is this inner passion that has carried me along the extreme of rocky roads life has handed me and from ti mes of ‘head in hands’ heartbreak to break through to the podium. It is taking action on one’s passion that makes life an amazing journey.

Years ago when I had broken my back and injured my spinal cord, never to walk or ski the same way, there were well-meaning people who gave me their advice about what I should do with the rest of my life. I think back now on their advice and realize that had I followed their advice it would have been a death sentence to my passion in life. I probably never would have come back to skiing (as a sitskier) and the warmness of our Nordic family. If I hadn’t returned to skiing, I never would have discovered cycling and learned to race and become one of the fastest women in the world. Nor would I have maybe thought about having a family of my own.

But, at this moment as I write I am surrounded by warm memories of the people who share a passion for life, memories of the podium and Overall World Cup Trophies. And strewn across the floor are squeaky toys and stuffed animals with the most amazing miracle of all beside me, a beautiful baby girl. There is no brighter gold than this.

Gabriella Maria Whyte HagenGabriella Maria Whyte Hagen, was born September 20, 2007 weighing 3.33kgs and 52cm tall. It was that night as I watched her tiny chest rise and fall with her first puffs of air, that I realized there was nothing in the world could have ever prepared me for what an amazing experience it is to be a parent. Her arrival has deepened my passion for life in a way that astounds me. And now, even after nearly 5 months of sleepless nights, diaper changes, feedings, playing peek-a-boo a million times at 2am, singing the same lullaby over and over again, I feel that love finds its magical way into your heart and grows in leaps and bounds through the moments.

Just as life has taken on a new dimension as a parent, so has training and racing. These past months as I find my way back to training, it has been a joy to start sharing my passion for the outdoors and the sports I love with my daughter. In turn, Gabriella has been teaching me to be a much tougher athlete – to be more focused with the time I have, that quality means more than quantity and above all do what I love to do. My little training partner’s smiling face peering up at me from her pulk is an amazing reward to continue following my passion.

These days, as Gabriella and I gear up to train, I am thankful for the support of CCC sponsors who have not only helped make podium results possible in the past but who share in the passion of excellence of high performance for future podium results and beyond.  

And to the rest of our family at CCC, we thank you as well for your support and encouragement! It is one of the best feelings in the world to be with people who are also passionate about excellence whether it is in search of the podium, back country mountains, or skiing for the sheer love of it. Gabriella and I look forward to seeing you out on the trails!

Gabriella Maria Whyte Hagen