Female Leadership Project: Q&A with Marianne St. Gelais

Speed Skating Canada is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 Female Leadership Pilot Project, an exciting gender equity initiative that will see five speed skating clubs from across the country implement a tailored 6-week training program for female athletes aged 12-16 years old who are new to the sport.

Clubs interested in applying for inclusion in the Female Leadership Pilot Project are asked to do so using the online form below. The application deadline is September 13.

This targeted programming will be delivered by local female coaches, who will receive guidance and mentorship from three-time Olympic medalist Marianne St.Gelais, who will be involved with the project in an ambassador role. She will look to inspire both the skaters and coaching leads involved in the program through a series of virtual sessions.

Read the Q&A below to find out why Marianne St.Gelais wanted to get involved with the Female Leadership Pilot Project, the importance of female coaches and role models, and her transition from high performance athlete to coach.


Tell us why you wanted to get involved with the Female Leadership pilot project.

The project speaks to me because it targets young women. Sometimes, when you go for your goals, you need a little helping hand. I was myself guided by great women and they had a major impact on me, so it’s my turn to give back.

Tell us why it is important for young female athletes to have female coaches and role models.

As strange as it may seem, as a woman, there are certain things that I can only share with my mother and my sisters, so I think that young women have that greater confidence and comfort level to communicate with a woman. That needs to be recognized and put intro practice.

Tell us about a female role model (athlete, coach, volunteer) that had an impact on your speed skating career.

Tania Vicent certainly is the woman who has had the greatest impact on my career. I was fortunate enough to skate with her during her last Olympic cycle as an athlete and now she works remotely as a mentor.

Tell us about your transition from high performance athlete to coach.

Coaching was not part of my career plan at first. I started slowly and I really got into it because of the young skaters I was coaching and their wonderful energy. When it comes down to it, I give tools to young skaters to help them become good people. If they become Olympians, great, but their success lies in much more than their performance. The pride I have in them is not limited to a number.

Tell us what you love most about coaching.

What I love most about coaching is that relationship that I build with young athletes. It’s not so much about performance, it’s more about that super important bond of trust that I value so much.