Why we love her
Canada's golden girl Lauren Woolstencroft, 24, won her first Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City. Born without legs below the knees and her left arm missing below the elbow, Lauren's dedication to the sport, determination and fearlessness has led to success on the slopes and even to the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy.
A little luck
Even though Lauren took to skis with ease, she originally had no intention of competing. “A lot of people grow up knowing what they want to do, and I really didn't,” says Lauren. “I had actually been a competitive horseback rider first.” Bored with riding, Lauren quit at age 14. While looking for a new activity, a friend on the Alberta Disabled Alpine Team convinced her to join.
“It kind of hit me at the right time, and once I tried ‘skiing racing,' I instantly fell in love with it.” Lauren's immediate family are avid skiers, so the sport was in her blood. The ambitious Calgary native had strapped on her first set of skis at age four.
“My disability is something I've always dealt with, so I don't know any different. It's normal for me.” While skiing prosthetics give her an edge, it's Lauren's love of the sport that keeps her motivated. “You're not on top of the podium every day, so it's my passion that gets me through the hard times.”
Lauren has won more than 50 medals since joining the Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team in 1998, including a hat trick at the 2002 Paralympic Games -- two golds and a bronze -- all while pursuing an electrical engineering degree at the University of Victoria. “It's been a juggling act trying to maintain my place on the team, compete at a high level and get enough training in while going to school,” she says. When things get tough, Lauren says her parents are a source of inspiration. “Their attitude and commitment to success and being happy inspire me.”
Oh, so sweet
When Lauren's not slicing through the snow, she likes to kick back and cook for family and friends. “I love to bake cookies and cakes,” she says. Her other favourite pastime is eating. Lauren's sweet tooth is no secret. Her Salt Lake City teammates nicknamed her Pudding.
When Lauren geared up for the last Winter Games, she knew it was her last chance to reclaim the top spot on the Olympic podium. “I've achieved a lot of the things that I wanted to do,” she says. “Now I'd like to put my degree to work, and I'd love to have a family down the road.”
“There's no magic formula for success. Ultimately, it's about believing in yourself, making realistic goals, believing you can achieve them and going for them without hesitation. Live with no regrets.”