Canadian speed specialist Kelly VanderBeek is heading to the London 2012 Games – to spend two weeks working as a broadcaster.
The 29-year-old has spent the summer working hard in the gym as she continues her comeback from a long-term knee injury. And with London falling between ski camps in Switzerland and New Zealand on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s schedule, she was delighted to be invited to be part of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium’s team at the Games, where she will front a feature called ‘Raising an Olympian.’
VanderBeek, who hopes to pursue a career in broadcasting when her time as a ski racer draws to a close, already has extensive experience working in the media but her latest assignment is unique in that it has nothing to do with ski racing.
“It’s a big step for me to be offered this role,” VanderBeek said. “‘Raising an Olympian’ will document the experiences that the mothers of athletes go through at the Olympics. The plan is to follow several moms as they experience watching their kids compete and create a documentary on each of them. I honestly think this is the best job in the world. Moms are the reason Olympians are who they are.”
VanderBeek has enjoyed a superb career in ski racing, having racked up three podiums at the World Cup level since making her debut in Lake Louise in 2001. She famously finished fourth in super-G at the 2006 Games, missing the podium by just 0.03 seconds. In January 2012, VanderBeek made her first World Cup start since 2009 after working her way back from injury and she’s continuing to work on building strength and flexibility through all the ranges of motion in her leg ahead of the start of the 2012-13 World Cup season.
“We’re doing absolutely everything possible to get me back racing fast,” said VanderBeek, who moved to Canmore this summer to fully commit to the women’s team’s centralized dryland program. “Living in Canmore has given me full-time access to trainers, physios, osteopaths and I’ve been working on a body-weight controlled treadmill. The knee is making progress, slowly and in small increments. It’s improving.”
VanderBeek, who is married to five-time Olympic kayaker David Ford, is sitting out the team’s first ski camp in Zermatt, Switzerland, which starts next week, but she’s still hoping to be ready for an August camp that’s due to take place in New Zealand.
In the meantime, she’s excited to experience an Olympic Games from a very different perspective, while shining the spotlight on some very deserving parents.
“It’s all about the role a mom plays in championing her child’s Olympic dreams. These features are presented by P&G, who produced the commercials you may have seen on the role of mothers of Olympians,” VanderBeek said. “It’s hard to quantify the role a mom plays. Really, it’s everything. So much is unseen and for the athlete a lot of it is knowing that they are always there, if needed.”VanderBeek fondly remembers the part her own parents, Janet and Ron, played in supporting her Olympic dream.
“My mom was never a pushy mom but she was supportive. She was the one who got up at five in the morning to take me to ski races and be there to pick me up at the end of the day,” said VanderBeek, who grew up skiing in Chicopee, Ont. “It was great having my parents on the hill. I realize now how special it was to have parents who did support me and were prepared to stand on the hill in -30 temperatures. My mom is still volunteering today up in Collingwood (Ont.).”
Janet VanderBeek said like most moms, she didn’t start out expecting her child to one day experience the honour of representing her country at an Olympic Games.
“As a parent you are there from Day 1 and you just sort of evolve with it. You don’t ever truly think you are doing anything other than just being a good parent,” she said. “All of a sudden, one day you wake up and realize you have a highly-motivated and dynamic kid who wants to be the best she can be. They develop this incredible desire and it’s almost like you don’t know where it came from. Kelly had this absolute passion for skiing – off she went and you just try to keep up. You just go with the whirlwind.”
Janet is thrilled her daughter will get the chance to witness and recognize the commitment moms have made to their child’s Olympic journey.
“Kelly did a great job in Whistler during the (2010) Olympics. I think it helped fill the void for her and now it’s evolved from there,” Janet said. “Although she was very independent as a teenager family is important to Kelly and I think in her gut she knows how much Ron and I did for her. This is a little way of giving back and acknowledging the part that parents play.”
VanderBeek worked for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and has also done a lot of broadcast work with CBC’s flagship ski-racing shows. This past season she also called her first World Cup race for Sportsnet.
“This role is going to be more along the lines of what I did in Vancouver but it’s completely unrelated to skiing. It’s outside of my comfort zone,” VanderBeek said. “I will be going to quite a few different events with the moms. It’s the Olympic Games so you never know what’s going to happen!
“I’m very interested in (pursuing a career in broadcasting) after ski racing. Working in TV is like working in sport. You have this whole team working together doing the preparation work and then you have the big performance. It’s a really similar feeling to being an athlete and it’s definitely something I could get passionate about.”
Source: Alpine Canada