New reality for Woolstencroft

ALLISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:09 PM ET

TORONTO - Canada is getting to know golden girl skier Lauren Woolstencroft and it’s about time. In the seven weeks since the Vancouver Paralympics, the 28-year-old engineer has been adjusting to a new level of fame and attention, from dropping the puck at NHL games, making TV appearances and getting recognized on the streets of Vancouver.

“I don’t know if I’d call it fame by any means,” Woolstencroft giggled. “Obviously, just being a home Games, we got so much more coverage than we ever have in the past, typically. I think everyone experienced a lot more attention than we expected, but it’s awesome, it’s what we’ve been hoping for.”

Woolstencroft’s new notoriety is not NHL level, sure, nor anything like Terry Fox. But perhaps it should be. Consider that her five gold para-alpine medals in Vancouver made her most decorated female athlete of all time at a single Paralympic Winter Games.

Woolstencroft also tied swimmer Stephanie Dixon and athletics star Chantal Petitclerc as the only three Canadian women to earn five gold medals in a single Paralympics, winter or summer.

But alas, her charmed post-Vancouver life took a bit of a reality hit this week as Woolstencroft went back to her full-time job in Vancouver at BC Hydro, after an eight-month leave of absence.

“Definitely a bit of a shock to the system,” she said. “It’s good. Everyone was really happy for me to be back, so far it has just been a medal show and tell.”

A veteran of the national team, Woolstencroft also competed in the 2006 and 2002 Games, winning a total of five medals, and came home to the usual athlete visits to Parliament and requests for public speaking, but not much fanfare. It was different this time.

“I have to say, dropping the puck at the Canucks game, that was an amazing experience,” said the resident of North Vancouver. “Seeing all those hockey players that I usually cheer for on television was definitely unreal, especially having (Canucks goalie Roberto) Luongo standing right in front of me.

“The most unusual experience that I have had since the end of the Games has been that people I don’t even know actually recognize me on the streets, at the grocery stores and in restaurants. It’s quite shocking.”

Born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow, Woolstencroft started skiing at age 4. Her dad’s passion for skiing was infectious and the sport became her focus. But she hasn’t always been dominant on the slopes.

“At the world cups earlier this year, I lost lots of races or won a race or two by smaller margins,” Woolstencroft said. “I was nervous for the Games but in retrospect it got my mind in order, pushed me to train my hardest in February and know there was nothing more I could do.”

Now focusing on her career, Woolstoncroft is not sure whether she’ll continue skiing until the 2014 Games in Russia. And as for being famous?

“It’s certainly not my goal,” she laughed. “But I’m not going to say no, if it happens. My biggest thing is just getting the word out about Paralympics so people understand what it is and try to get people involved in sport.”


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