THE SEASON BEGINS

The day we leave for Europe always leaves me feeling like there’s just not enough time to get everything done. This year I seem to have everything under control and yet I still feel like if I just had two more hours, everything would be fine. Two more hours to see some friends, pack some more clothes, call home, and relax. The excitement of the upcoming competitions somehow gets bogged down by the stress of remembering minute details, like where is my passport; do I have time to dry my hair, should I bring these shoes or these? It all seems so futile, especially now. Thankfully there is always that moment, once I’m seated on the plane, when everything is done and I realize that all I have in front of me is three weeks of racing.

Today as I embark on the first World Cup tour of the season, I do so with a little bit of sadness in my heart. Two of our teammates are staying behind, both due to injury.

Cindy K is recovering from major surgery this week to repair a cut to her right arm that resulted in twelve severed tendons, a damaged nerve and cut artery. I was right behind her when it happened. We were doing an acceleration, and I remember thinking as she pulled away from me on the straightaway, ‘this girl is so incredibly powerful!’ In just a few short strokes she opened up a gap on me of at least 5 metres. As I chased her around the turn I saw her fall, slide into the mats and collide with the Chinese skater who was resting. I saw her clutch her arm, and although I knew she might have hurt herself, I could never have imagined that it was a serious as it was. In just a blink of an eye, Cindy’s world changed and all we could do was watch in despair as she was lifted into the ambulance and taken to the hospital.

In the days that followed, we all visited her at the hospital and then at home, in an attempt to somehow bring her comfort and support. What amazed me was how incredibly fine she is and how great she will be. Her response to this injury has been a testament to just how strong she is, how optimistic she is and how unbelievably positive and powerful her outlook on life must be. It was inspiring to see her laugh, to talk with us as if almost nothing had happened. In the days and weeks ahead I have no doubt that she will improve far faster than anyone predicted and will return to skating with the same optimism and power that she has shown in the past. I know that I will miss her dearly in the next few weeks.

Another teammate, Arne, is out for a few weeks due to a knee injury that has been plaguing him for some time. It makes me sad that he will not be there with us in Europe because of his hilarious sense of humour and his ‘louder than life’ laugh. His skating has been going so well this year and although he needs to take this time out to recuperate, I know that, just as Cindy will return even stronger, so indeed will Arne.

In spite of their absences, I know that the team is strong and powerful and there are sure to be some great results in the coming weeks.

A few weeks ago I was asked when my next article was coming. I told that individual I was waiting for my next inspiration. I would rather have not been inspired for the rest of the season if it meant that I wouldn’t be writing that Cindy was hurt and Arne’s knee was so bad he wouldn’t be coming.

But that would be unrealistic of me. Sometimes accidents happen, sometimes people get injured. Sometimes the best lessons in life are learned when things aren’t going quite as planned. The past few days have made me realize the importance of the relationships that I have with my teammates is stronger than the results of any race that I skate. That one can’t dwell on the past or float into the future. What’s important is what is happening today. Maybe when everything is done, and I finally sit down on the plane today, I won’t be thinking so much what I might have forgotten or all the races coming up, but about this moment, here and now.