Slovenian, Rochette share Terry Fox Award

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, a bronze medallist, is one of two Vancouver Olympians to win the Terry Fox Award. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — Petra Majdic was in the athletes village Friday night when she learned she and Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette had won the Terry Fox Award, which goes to Olympians who embody the values of the late Canadian legend.

Growing up on a farm near a small village outside Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, Majdic had heard of the Canadian icon.

“I had seen the movie when I was a little girl,” she said.

But she didn’t really know the Terry Fox story that well, or what he meant to Canadians. And when she read some of his biography, she began to cry.

“I really knew what he was talking about because I found myself in these words very much,” the 30-year-old skier said. “I’m really impressed and emotional by this.

“His words touched me so well, because I was always this little girl who had a dream, and the thinking of getting a medal was so far away.”

Canadians are well aware of Rochette’s story here in Vancouver. Just two days after her mother, Therese, died suddenly, Rochette bravely skated on the Pacific Coliseum ice and finished third in the short program. Two days later, with a heavy heart, she captured the bronze medal, her spirit an inspiration to all Canadians and skate fans.

Majdic’s story in Vancouver is not as tragic, but equally inspirational. Really, it’s the stuff of legends.

While warming up for the 1.4-kilometre classic sprint on Feb.17, Majdic skied off course and fell into a 10-foot gully, crashing on to some rocks and breaking both ski poles, one of her skies and five ribs. She also punctured a lung.

Majdic completed her qualifying round but then collapsed in pain.

Despite the agonizing pain, Majdic won her quarterfinal and then finished strong enough in the semi to make the final, where she won bronze — Slovenia’s first individual medal at the Winter Olympics in 16 years.

Majdic spent three days in hospital and attended the medal ceremony with a tube in her chest.

“Today,” she said after receiving her medal, “this is not a bronze. This is a gold with little diamonds on it.”

Her bravery inspired her country in a way that Fox and Rochette inspired Canadians.

The president of Slovenia, Danilo Turk, gave her the Golden Order, one of that nation’s highest honours, and she will receive a hero’s welcome upon returning home next week.

“It’s really an incredible story,” said Toronto Raptors centre Rasho Nesterovic, a fellow Slovenian. “She is a true champion and what the Olympics is all about. Everyone back home is excited and very, very proud of her.”

Majdic fought hard to control her emotions on Saturday after receiving the Terry Fox Award from Terry’s mother Betty and father Rolly. She said that after reading his biography and fully realizing his accomplishments, she realized the plaque means even more than the Olympic bronze.

“This kind of award is just something so much more,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It’s the greatest thing which I ever had.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

POLL