Four years ago, 18 year old Katie Weatherston was in awe as she watched the women’s hockey event at the 2002 Olympics. And one thing that kept on running through her mind was ‘How can I get there too?’
“Just after watching the final, I kind of felt like … it was almost a connection. I was thinking to myself ‘That was amazing … this team’s great’. How cool would it be to play on that team one day? And in the back of my mind, I thought that I could play there. I’d love to get the opportunity to try out. I wasn’t sure how to go about it … but I wanted to be there.”
There truly is nothing quite like the optimism of youth. Or then again, maybe Weatherston’s dreams weren’t so far fetched after all.
Fast forward four years. There’s the same Katie Weatherston, now 22, and now wearing sweater # 8 and scoring in Canada’s first game at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, a 16-0 win over Italy.
From sitting in front of the television set to sitting on a plane headed for Turin as a member of Canada’s Olympic Team, Weatherston has taken it step by step, going from being a Canada’s Under-22 Team hopeful to taking a regular shift at the Olympic Winter Games.
“I went to an October camp (for the Under-22 Team) and had so much fun. It was a great experience and from there got invited to Under-22s.”
“At that point, I wasn’t thinking Olympics. I was thinking more ‘Play well at this camp’. Every camp I went to, that’s what I kept thinking. I took it as a day-to-day thing, and for me, I think that was really good … to think one camp at a time, not thinking ahead too much. The same thing was true here (at Olympic centralization). I just thought, just make it through this tournament, then another tournament, then you want to make it through Christmas and so on. It was just little goals along the way that helped me put things in perspective.”
And if Weatherston can serve as an inspiration to young girls watching the 2006 Olympics, that’s fine with her. But be forewarned, it takes a lot more than wanting a spot on an Olympic roster to achieve your goal.
“Olympics are a great event to watch and it gives so much more profile to women’s hockey in general. For all the young girls who have that dream to play at the Olympics, I think it’s important that they just take it one step at a time. You can’t just set a big goal, you’ve got to set a bunch of little goals along the way. That’s definitely the way I’ve done it. I set little goals for myself, realistic goals to improve. And your work ethic has got to be phenomenal.”
“You think that you’ve learned how to work your hardest. But then the next year, you’re able to push yourself to a whole new level. I definitely figured that out in August, coming to Calgary. This is by far the most work and the hardest I’ve pushed myself in hockey.”
The city of Thunder Bay, Ontario is well represented at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. In hockey, Weatherston is joined by Eric Staal on the men’s side. Staal is enjoying a breakout NHL season and, like Weatherston, got his start with Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence, as a two-time member of the National Under-18 Team. Staal and Weatherston, along with everyone else from Thunder Bay, will also be keeping their eyes on the cross-country skiiing event where a third native of Thunder Bay, Sean Crooks, will also be making his Olympic debut.
“It’s great for our town. A lot of people are excited and I think there was a lot of pressure from my town for me to make this team too. And I’m sure that’s the same with everyone. When you finally make the team, you’re excited about it but there are so many other people that are part of it. When I went home, I thanked all of my coaches … I invited them over to let them know. There are so many people that have helped me on the way to get here. I get great support from my hometown and community.”
Weatherston on the challenge of making the Olympic team as a rookie
“Mentally, I was trying to give myself that edge. So, as a rookie, I kept on telling myself ‘I’m going to improve because I am a rookie and I have so much to learn’ ”