Today a new chapter in the life of my speed skating career begins - Catriona Le May Doan

A letter from Catriona Le May Doan

Today a new chapter in the life of my speed skating career begins. I have decided to retire from the Canadian National Speed Skating team. This decision has been one that has been difficult to come to. This decision was made with the help of my husband Bart, my family, my friends, and also my teammates and coaches.

Some people say that you should never retire from something if you still love what you do. Well, let me be the first to say. I love speed skating. I love everything about it, but I believe that it is the right time to move on to the next step. What is the next step? I am excited about the future. Yes, it is a little scary – it is a change, but I am looking forward to continuing to pursue my goals. Those goals are in public speaking, maybe some television commentating, and helping with sport so that the skaters and other athletes of the future will be able to fulfill their dreams. I plan to do more community involvement including working with the Vancouver 2010 bid committee, Right to Play, and other charities that I am involved with. Starting a family of our own is also in our future plans.

I have been involved in speed skating for 23 years. I have been a National team member for 15 years and participated in 4 Olympic Games. Those years are full of many very special memories. I will never forget the many hours that I spent on the bus going from Saskatoon to Winnipeg, with my friends, pulling up to the oval and being so excited to race, and to see many of the older skaters on the National Team and think “one day maybe that will be me”. I have had the opportunity to see the world and I have competed in the Netherlands, United States, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Norway, Italy, France……just to name a few countries. I will keep those experiences with me for a lifetime.

The hardest thing for me is to leave my teammates. They are like family to me. We have gone through everything together. We know each other inside and out, and through all of our experiences we have learned to help each other during the tough times and the great times as well. I will miss sitting at the dinner table for three hours in Europe or Asia with them, talking and laughing about everything from politics to relationships. I will continue to be close to them, but I do admit that not being together every day, out on the road cycling, doing laps, sitting on the bumpers worrying about our hard training session will be very hard. My teammates were a big part of my success. I will never forget running hills in Fortress at a training camp, feeling like I couldn’t take one more step and hearing them cheer me on, knowing that pushing myself to the end, would help me to eventually accomplish my dreams. I will miss the travel – in some ways the traveling is very hard and tiring, but it is also a great part of our lives. We really bond on the road and I will miss that and all of my team very much.

I have had many people throughout my career that have helped me to achieve my dreams. The thrill of hearing the National anthem in Nagano and then again in Salt Lake City has been due to the support of so many special people. Most importantly, I have to thank my family. My parents have been so supportive over the years. They have never pushed me and that has been the most important thing in my continuing to skate and compete. I have felt that regardless of any circumstance or result, they have been behind me 100%. My parents allowed me the freedom and the guidance of moving to Calgary in 1988 when I was 17 years old to take my place on the National Team. My sisters have put up with my frequent stress outbursts and with my busy schedule I have not been the most accessible babysitter. My husband has been a huge source of support. He has dealt with my stresses, my lack of confidence, my fatigue, and many more joyous characteristics. However, he has always helped me to be my best – from having lunch ready when I come home from training, to rubbing my shoulders when I am too stressed to sleep. He has been with me when I have been at my lowest, and celebrated with me when I have been at my highest. My friends have always been a huge support as well. They have always put up with my schedule and never complained if I have been away at times of weddings, birth of children, and I really look forward to being able to see everyone a lot more.

My coaches have been so wonderful over the years. My first coaches in Saskatoon include Klaus Post, Henrietta Goplen, and Tim Comfort. Those first coaches helped me to dream, have fun, and to work my way to qualify for the National Team. Most recently, my coaches were Sean Ireland, Neal Marshall, and Derrick Auch. They helped me to realize my dreams, still have fun, and learn to deal with success and with disappointment. They helped me to go that tenth or hundredth of a second faster, and helped me to do one more interval, even when I was so tired and stressed that my emotions got the best of me.

My sponsors have supported me in many ways. I would like to thank Aegon Canada, Saskatchewan Blue Cross, AMJ Campbell Van Lines, PowerBar, Roots, Sundog Eyewear, Bell Mobility, Warnaco of Canada and McClelland & Stewart. The financial support has been a huge source of support. The last few years in my speed skating career I have had the opportunity to train full time and not have to worry about keeping another job. The emotional and mental support from my sponsors is huge as well. They have believed in me and I have really appreciated the letters, emails, and faxes that they have sent.

I have so many people to thank for the opportunities that I have had, and the chance to realize my dreams. I would like to start by thanking my home club, the Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club, the Olympic Oval, Speed Skate Canada, the National Sport Centre, the Canadian Olympic Committee and so many more. The sport physiologists, the sport psychologists (I kept them busy), the strength trainers, and many more are all a part of my success.

The opportunity to reach children through my success is something that I take considerable pride in. If I have reached even one child – helped them to work harder, or to dream higher, then it has all been more than worthwhile.

I am sad and also excited about what is happening in my life, but the important thing is that I am looking forward to the future. I know that whatever I pursue I will be giving 100%, and I will be accepting my new challenges with as much excitement and drive as I have all through my speed skating career.

I really thank everyone for their love and support over the many years.

Catriona Le May Doan