Always live the dream

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Jennifer Botterill can vividly remember what life was like on the other side of the screen.

She remembers being the little girl, sitting at home and pondering what it would be like to proudly wear the Maple Leaf.

"Time goes by quickly, but it wasn't that long ago that I was their position and watching the Olympics on TV," said Botterill, a Winnipegger who won a gold medal with the national women's hockey team in Torino, Italy last month and addressed the students at Brock Corydon Elementary School yesterday. "I was pretty small and I had this dream. I played a lot of different sports and I didn't know what sport I wanted to be in, but I knew I wanted to be an Olympian."

Although she's only 26, Botterill is a nine-year veteran of the national team program and has already won three Olympic medals -- a silver in Nagano (1998) to go along with gold from Salt Lake City (2002) and Torino (2006).

Funny thing is, Botterill's original goal was to compete in her first Olympics in 2002, until her father Cal, the noted sports psychologist, encouraged her to do her best to make the squad in 1998, which is exactly what happened.

"My family had a role in terms of supporting me in whatever I loved doing, but there was never any pressure," said Jennifer. "I love the Olympics and winning this gold medal was so special. I value it so much."

Being an Olympian also carries a responsibility. That's why Botterill shared her story at Brock Corydon, where her mother and two-time Olympian, Doreen, is a teacher.

Botterill's presentation included story-telling, a video and a question-and-answer period.

The students weren't the only one's affected by the visit.

"She's such an incredible speaker and she's a role model for these children," said Brock Corydon principal Ira Udow. "It's inspiring. I had tears in my eyes just listening to her. She is a hero in every sense of the word. And not only is she talking about winning, she's talking about the friendships and the hard work she put in. Maybe these children can be inspired in their own way."

SEVERAL MORE APPEARANCES

Botterill is making several more appearances this week -- she'll be talking about the 2007 IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship to be held at the MTS Centre and it also the keynote speaker for the annual Manitoba Moose Yearling Foundation gala dinner in support of Special Olympics -- before doing some travelling.

The Harvard graduate plans to visit her brother Jason and her sister-in-law Andrea in Ann Arbor, Mich., attend a wedding in Boston and enjoy some down time.

"It's important to take a break because then you're so hungry to get back at it," said Botterill.

She'll likely relocate to Toronto in the late spring or early summer and plans to suit up for the Aeros in the National Women's Hockey League next season in preparation for the world championship in her hometown.

Although she doesn't want to look too far ahead, being a four-time Olympian and having the chance to defend the gold medals she won in 2002 and 2006 in Vancouver in 2010 is something that's definitely crossed her mind.

For now, Botterill just wants to enjoy being home with her friends and family.

"Anytime I come home, it's so nice," said Botterill. "It keeps you grounded. This is where it started for me."


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