'Downhill skiing, minus the fun'

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

When everything was going Beckie Scott's way, after finally being awarded her Olympic gold medal, after a terrific season following Salt Lake City, the last thing she ever expected occurred.

She hit an emotional wall. Nothing in her career ever seems to come without some upheaval.

"I started questioning everything," the Canadian cross country ski sensation said. "I was questioning my desire and motivation. I'd become tried of racing, tired of competing and training. I just wanted to quit."

And in a way, she did. Scott took five months off two years ago with the intention of retiring from world-class competition.

"For a while I hated the sport and thought it was ridiculous," the native of Vegreville, Alta., said. "But more than anything, I just needed the break. It was a really important journey for me to go through, just getting away.

"The whole experience took me to a different place. I just wanted to compete for myself and had to get back to that. So I gravitated back to the sport and realized I wasn't really ready to say goodbye."

She would like to say hello again at the Turin Olympics and if recent performances are any indication, Scott should be a factor in the cross country events she best describes as "downhill skiing, minus the fun." She is the first Canadian to ever win an Olympic medal in cross country and what began as bronze in Salt Lake, ended up in gold after an elongated battle when the first two finishers were done in by a drug lab.

This will the third Olympic Games for Scott, who turns 32 in early January. In Nagano in 1998, she finished so far back you could barely find her name on a finish list.

"I was never so discouraged," she said. "Those were the hardest days of my career."

The experience of Salt Lake was both exhilarating and frustrating. She won her medal in the 5km free pursuit and almost immediately accused the winners of cheating. Ironically, Dick Pound -- the same Dick Pound who accused a percentage of NHL players of being on drugs without substantial evidence -- criticized Scott's stance on the grounds she had no evidence.

Only Scott knew. Everyone in the sport knew. And she was proven right: Even if took time for her to get the right colour of medal. Since the controversy, Scott has agreed to join the World Anti-Doping Agency's athlete committee.

And now comes Turin and with it comes large expectations. Another podium finish is not out of the question.

"I feel great," Scott said. "My preparations are right on track. I want to enjoy this Olympics -- and I want to ski to my potential. If I do that, everything will be just right."

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MEDAL CHANCES

Beckie Scott appears to be peaking just in time for Turin

PREDICTION: Silver


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