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CORNER BROOK, N.L. — Sarah Graham knows about perseverance.
There was a time when she almost lost two things dear to her heart — speed skating and playing piano.
Just being able to say she’s going to the Canada Winter Games is something Graham is grateful for because there was a time when it looked like her skating days were over.
The 18-year-old Corner Brook native was sidelined for two years due to a torn hip flexor she suffered in the middle of a race because she didn’t warm up properly. She came back to the sport two years ago with hopes of finding her form again knowing she had her work cut out for her.
“It was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk for a good solid time after that and I had to drop all my other sports,” Graham said earlier this week.
Back in the summer of 2016, the girl who has been playing piano for 12 years shattered her thumb in 12 places and went through a tough rehabilitation period. During a visit to the family cabin, she slipped with a large rock in her hand and the rock crushed her hand when she fell to the ground. It was a freak accident.
However, she found her way back to the piano and continued her participation in the annual Corner Brook Rotary Music Festival.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m the person now that I used to look up to." — Sarah Graham
Now Graham, along with fellow Humber Valley Speed Skating Club teammate Rosemary Karn, will represent Newfoundland and Labrador in short track speed skating at the 2019 Canada Winter Games next month in Red Deer, Alta.
Being away from the ice put her behind the rest of the pack when it came to technique, strength and endurance, but she has always taken pride in the fact she never gave up on anything important to her. She fought her way back with intense training and a willingness to travel out of province.
“It really happened at a time that’s crucial to strength development in skating,” she said. “When you’re 14 and 15 that’s when it’s important to be training at a higher level and I just wasn’t training at all because I couldn’t.”
Being a speed skater in the only club in the province has enough challenges on its own. Athletes have to travel off the island on a regular basis to test their skillset with no other clubs around and with small numbers some of the complex drills that elite athletes need to be doing can’t be done making it difficult to prepare for in-race circumstances.
Graham, who plans on pursuing a career as a veterinarian when she finishes high school, loves to challenge herself in all facets of her life so she just took it all in stride as she made her way back.
Travelling at high speeds on blades 16 ½ inches long over a sheet of ice provides her with a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment all in one. She scoffs at those who think the sport is simply skating around in circles.
She said it’s a lot harder than it looks with athletes expected to have a combination of power, grace, agility and endurance to excel at the sport.
Some people may think it was an easy ride for Graham because there weren’t many athletes to pick from with only one club in place in the province. She defends her position by saying you have to maintain a high level of athleticism and meet certain times to qualify for the Games and she did all that.
Canada Games is listed as one of the highlights of elite athletes in their respective sport so representing her province is a big deal. She considers her participation in the Games as a stepping stone to her vision of competing at the world junior speedskating championships in the near future.
It’s been a long process, but she’s glad she found the strength to push forward. She has never been one to give up on anything so she’s going to enjoy the reward.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m the person now that I used to look up to,” she said.
She has no problem telling people she’s going to the Games because she worked hard for it and deserves a chance to show why she has become one of the fastest skaters in Atlantic Canada for her age group.