Calgary-After nearly two decades of competitive cross-country ski racing, Beckie Scott has decided to officially retire, the two-time Olympic medallist announced on Wednesday at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
Skiing into retirement as Canada's most decorated and successful cross-country ski athlete, Scott captured the hearts of all Canadians over the last decade with her infectious smile, compassion and selflessness, willingness to challenge obstacles, passion for sport and commitment to excellence.
"Today marks the end of an incredible journey and amazing chapter in my life. I feel I have accomplished a tremendous amount in my skiing career, both on and off the snow, but it has been so enjoyable and I can hardly believe the time has come to say good-bye," the Vermilion, Alta. native said in front of her family and long-time World Cup and Olympic comrades, Sara Renner and Milaine Theriault, during a media conference. "I am leaving the sport with great memories, friendships and experiences that I will hold close forever, but it is now time to move on to new challenges and opportunities."
Scott has been a trailblazer for nordic sport in Canada since joining the national program in 1994. The road was long and gradual during her 11-year career, but Scott retires having re-written the Canadian record books, and has firmly established herself as one of the world's best all-round cross-country ski racers.
Her remarkable trail includes two Olympic medals, which include a gold in the five-kilometre pursuit race at the 2002 Games, and a silver medal that she claimed this February with teammate, Renner, in the team sprint event in Torino, Italy.
Using force and will more so than natural talent to find her way onto the international podium, Beckie Scott capped off her career with a magical season. During the 2005-06 campaign, Scott racked up a total of 10 World Cup medals in nearly every discipline on her final journey down the world's Nordic highways, which made stops in Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and Asia. The season, which was highlighted by finishing runner-up for the overall World Cup title, included the first four World victories of her career. Scott leaves her competitive career as a proven superstar, and a total of 15 World Cup medals on her mantle.
"Beckie is leaving our sport after having played a significant role in putting us on the international radar screen, and ensuring its credibility within the Canadian sport system," said Al Maddox, executive director, Cross Country Canada. "Competitive cross-country ski racing in Canada has ridden Beckie's coat-tails to respectability. In doing this heavy lifting for her sport, while at the same time fulfilling her own dreams of excellence, Beckie has been a class act and her page in the history books may never be challenged."
Her career achievements off the snow are equally remarkable. A true icon for fair play and clean sport, Beckie's pursuit of justice around her 2002 Olympic gold medal is a triumph, which captured the imagination of a nation. Her name is now synonymous with athletes' rights and fair play. An advocate for drug-free sport, Scott is also Canada's current representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency's newly formed Athlete Committee.
Throughout her career, Scott has also been recognized for her charitable endeavours. She was named a UNICEF Canada special representative for challenging her fellow athletes at a Continental Cup event in 2001 to donate their prize money to an Afghanistan relief project, and in the spring of 2003 travelled to West Africa with UNICEF as part of their "Girl's Education" campaign. In recognition of her numerous achievements, Scott is a two-time (2002-03) recipient of the John Semmelink memorial award as the snow-sport athlete who through sportsmanship, conduct and ability, best represents Canada in international competition. Scott also received the Spirit of Sport Story of the Year award at the Canadian Sport Awards in 2004, and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition, and winning by a substantial number of votes, Scott was one of two international athletes elected by her peers to the IOC Athletes' Commission for an eight-year term during the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. As one of the 13 athletes on the Commission, Scott will spend a great deal of time in her new career participating in influential discussions leading up to the Olympic Games in Beijing, Vancouver and London, while providing an important voice for Canada's athletes.
"I am really looking forward to this new beginning, working for all of the athletes, and doing my best for them," said Scott. "I think it is really important to have a Canadian voice on the IOC Athletes' Commission.
Canadians are well respected worldwide and bring so much of what is good about sport and expected at the Olympic Games to the table. It's very exciting to take on this new role."
In recognition of her significant achievements, and the inspiration she has been for generations of cross-country ski athletes, CODA's past-chair Peggy Valentine, announced during the retirement ceremony the national sport organization is renaming a summer high-performance training camp on Haig Glacier in her honour. Valentine presented Scott with a sign that will be put up on the glacier with the camp's new name - Beckie Scott High-Performance Training Centre on Haig Glacier. The Haig Glacier is a seasonal training camp that has been operated by CODA since 1989 for Canada's elite cross-country ski athletes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park near Canmore, Alta.
"Having spent so many summers training at the Haig, it is an exceptional honour to have this facility named after me," said Scott. "I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my long-time supporters and partners in sport, Cross Country Canada and CODA. It is through their long-term investment in sport, that have enabled myself, my teammates, and the next generation of elite racers to achieve greatness."
Scott, who will continue to work with a number of sponsors and sport partners, also recognized on Wednesday the army of supporters that have helped her climb to the top of the cross-country ski world throughout her career.
"I would also like to extend a very sincere and heart-felt thank you to my teammates, coaches, technicians, sponsors, support staff, family, friends, fellow world cup competitors, the Town of Vermilion, and of course, husband Justin," said Scott. "It is these wonderful, incredible people I have had the good fortune to spend all these years with that have made my career so remarkable and memorable. Words cannot do justice to what your support, hard work and belief have meant to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you."
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 45,000 members are athletes, coaches and officials, including members of the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team and Canadian Disabled Cross-Country Ski Team. Cross-country skiing is Canada's optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.
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