The honours keep piling up for Isabelle Weidemann.
The Canadian speed skater was recently named the winner of the Calgary Booster Club’s Henry Viney Trophy, presented annually to the city’s top female athlete.
An Ottawa-born competitor who now calls Calgary home, Isabelle earned three shades of medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. She claimed the bronze in the 3,000 metres, silver in the 5,000 metres, and gold in the team pursuit.
At a press conference announcing the Calgary Booster Club award winners, she answered a few questions about her Olympic experience and how Calgary helped her excel on the ice. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: Congratulations on winning the Henry Viney Trophy! What does this award mean to you?
A: It means a lot. I’ve lived in Calgary for over ten years now. I moved out from Ottawa and the community and the sport community in Calgary has really allowed me to grow into an Olympic athlete, so I’m really grateful to have been recognized by the city of Calgary.
It was a little surreal. I actually looked at the list of all the athletes that were nominated and that have come before me. I’m really honoured to be with those women. It’s just really incredible to see the collection of athletes that have come out of Calgary.
Q: What was your Olympic experience like in 2022?
A: It was totally wild. I kind of went to the Olympics not expecting to medal. I was in a position to medal but I had previously gone to the Olympics in 2018 and come away with disappointing results, so going into 2022 I was just really honoured to be a part of the Canadian team. When I medaled it was a little bit shocking, and then it happened over and over again, so looking back on those weeks are a little bit blurry. I think I rode quite a high for a long time, especially coming home, but I was just so honoured to be able to do that for Canada and my team. I show up to training every day but there are so many other people behind the scenes that have helped get me there. I was just so incredibly proud to bring that home to other people.
Q: Now that you’ve got the Olympic medals, do you bring them out often?
A: I don’t take them out very often. I feel still a little bit weird about them. I never thought I would become an Olympic medalist as a kid. It was just not something that I even thought was possible, so I feel a little bit weird about them. They’re becoming more normal. I have been told that I’ll become desensitized to them a little bit, which is interesting to think about. I don’t take them out very often and look at them but maybe that will change over time
Q: How do other people you encounter respond when they see your medals?
A: That’s been a really amazing thing about having Olympic medals is that you get to connect with so many people. So many people have memories, not just about mine, but about the Olympic experience and sport in general, and I think a lot of people can relate to that and I love sharing that and sharing my experience with other people. I think it just brings so much joy and it brings me a lot of joy, so I love when people wear them and kids wear them and they drop them … they’re supposed to be enjoyed.
I remember seeing Chandra Crawford’s Olympic medal. She was a cross-country skier, and one of my mentors and is now a friend, and her gold medal is destroyed. Originally when I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how could you let that happen?’ But I totally get it now. She shared it with so many people, she’s inspired so many kids with that one medal and I love that. You can see all of the people that have touched it and all the Canadians that have clung to the Olympic experience, so I really like that.
Q: How has success at the Olympic level impacted your approach to competing moving forward?
A: It’s changed a little bit for me. I don’t look at the Olympics any more as this kind of pinnacle of my career. I definitely have some unresolved goals in speed skating. I want to go faster. I’ve always been really driven by the times, especially in speed skating. I now feel like I can focus on those things and take risks that maybe I hadn’t taken before the Olympics, especially because our goal as a team was to stand on the podium. So that’s really exciting and I have these accolades but I have so much more that I want to get out of speed skating.
I do allow myself to take those risks now and I can train a little bit harder or back off in certain parts because I’m really specific with what I want to accomplish now, so that’s been really amazing.
Q: What kind of adversity did you and your fellow athletes face heading into the 2022 Olympics?
A: I think that’s a big part of Team Canada even going into 2022. We saw the summer Olympians get delayed with their Olympics. All of our hearts broke for them. Going into 2022 we saw that adversity of training through COVID. Those years in particular were very hard. I think it gave us a lot of gratitude, just to be able to do what we love every day. I could see that on the team, for sure. A lot of people were just doing their sport with a lot of gratitude and a lot of pride just to be able to come to the Olympics and compete. I think that gives people a lot of fire. I think that’s a total advantage to go to the line like that, just very grateful to show up and get to do what we love every day. I want to use that and not take every day for granted.
Q: What does Calgary mean to you, both in your life and your athletic journey?
A: I moved to Calgary ten years ago now, right after high school, so I was a brand-new little adult, so I’ve become an adult here and I’ve become an elite athlete and Calgary’s really allowed me to do that. The facilities here, the program, just the community, has been a really big part of my journey as an athlete. I can pretty confidently say that I wouldn’t be an Olympic champion or a multi-Olympic medalist without the community here or the facilities, so I’m very grateful.
Isabelle Weidemann and the other Calgary Booster Club award winners will be officially recognized on April 23rd at the organization’s 69th annual gala at the Glenmore Inn & Convention Centre. Tickets are still available at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/69th-annual-calgary-booster-club-sports-gala-tickets-575149596927.