Corner Brook native Dr. Stephen French will have a unique vantage point at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
French, an orthopedic surgeon who has been living in Calgary with his wife Susan and three daughters for the past four years, is the team doctor for Team Canada’s 10-member alpine ski team for the three speed events.
French, in a volunteer role as a consultant with the Vancouver Olympic Committee, was a member of the general medical team at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Back in 2010, his role involved worrying about the entire field of athletes and the focus was on rescuing athletes from the field of play, but this time around he’s a member of Team Canada and his focus is on ensuring Canada’s elite athletes are prepared to compete for gold.
“That’s where you’re focus is on those guys and girls and making sure they’re safe and ready to compete,” French said Tuesday from Calgary.
Two of Canada’s medal hopefuls on the slopes in PyeongChang are Eric Guay and Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who just happen to be two stars who were getting their careers started when French became involved with Alpine Canada back in 2005.
“We kind have grown up together with it, but I’m a lot older than they are,” he said with a chuckle.
Alpine skiing is something French was involved in most of his life and he turned to coaching when his competitive days were behind him. He coached his way through medical school in university in Halifax with Corner Brook native and Marble alpine ski team head coach, Steve May.
Once he completed medical school French would become a sports medicine doctor who specializes in knee ligament reconstructions.
He has worked closely with elite alpine ski athletes for years and he also rubs shoulders with National Hockey League players on game day when he’s a member of the three-person medical team that gets assigned to every single NHL game.
He is also going to be the orthopedic surgeon on duty for the Calgary Flames home game against the Winnipeg Jets during Saturday’s Hockey Day in Canada live broadcast from coast to coast.
Working with elite athletes who have high expectations when it comes to their health and welfare is something he’s been doing for some time so it’s not like he’s going to be in unfamiliar territory.
“The pressure is high, but you get used to it,” he said. “They are demanding people and they’re demanding for a reason because they are working at the highest level. It’s fun once you get around that part.”
French got a chance to check out PyeongChang in March of 2017 when he attended a Women’s World Cup event that was being held as a test event for the Olympics and it proved to be a good learning experience on the ground.
He said there are a lot of Newfoundlanders who have taught in Korea over the years and his visit showed him that the host is a pretty welcoming society overall.
“They’ve lived with the chaos of having a mad man next door for a long time so they’re really relaxed about it all I have to say,” he said.