|Kristina Groves. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - Four-time Olympic medallist Kristina Groves used the words of author Julia Woodruff to help describe her feelings Wednesday as the speed-skating great announced her retirement.
“From the strain of the doing, into the peace of the done,” Groves said, reading aloud the famous quote.
“That’s where I am,” she told teammates, friends, family members and the media at the Olympic Oval.
“I’ve moved into the peace of the done. And it feels incredible.”
After a decorated 23-year international career that was perhaps defined as much by dedication as it was by raw talent, the cheerful Groves hangs up her skates with four Olympic medals and more than 35 World Cup podium finishes.
“I started this sport as a young, skinny, awkward kid without a lot of obvious talent,” Groves said.
“But the one thing I did have was the ability to work really hard. I think that’s one thing that characterizes my career over the last 23 years was simply how hard I was able to work.”
Canadians will no doubt remember the 34-year native of Ottawa as the rock-solid long-track skater who captured podium finishes in Olympic competition twice in the 1,500-metre, once in the 3,000-metre and once in Team Pursuit racing.
She retires with three silvers and one bronze in Olympic action, but it wasn’t just Groves’ Olympic excellence that separated her from the rest.
She ends her career as Canada’s most-decorated competitor in the World Single Distance Championships, having won 13 medals in total. She was also named Canada’s long track female athlete of the year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Her performance at the 2008 World Single Distance Championships in Japan was perhaps her greatest moment.
In Nagano that year, Groves competed in five events, winning a World Championship title and also claiming a medal in every race she was in, a feat that has yet to be duplicated.
“That is my one little claim to fame.”
While a concussion she suffered in World Cup action last November in Germany did slow her career down for some time, Groves said her decision to retire has nothing to do with injuries.
“Ultimately, sport is about winning. I always wanted to win,” Groves said.
“But over the last few years in particular I found myself gravitating toward a different philosophy where winning a race or being at the top of the podium wasn’t something that I focused on,” she said.
“Instead, I looked for a feeling that I could get in my races and that was ultimately what motivated me all these years, simply trying to be the best possible skater.
“The fact is that little urge to win that’s been there for so long has just slowly faded away in the last year. It doesn’t mean I don’t love speed skating anymore. I will love the sport until the day that I die,” she said.
“It’s simply time to walk away ... My heart is full.”