Kasandra Bradette: breaking out of the clouds to shoot for the stars ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


19 décembre 2017

Kasandra Bradette: breaking out of the clouds to shoot for the stars

When we look up at the night sky, we often see it as a two dimensions canvas. A velvet stage curtain lit by thousands of little light bulbs. In the Canadian short track speed skating’s constellation, there is no doubt that Marianne St-Gelais is the North Star, but this constellation would not be complete without the presence of other shining stars. It is in a small coffee shop of the Montreal borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, just a few days before flying out to the first World cup event in September, that Kasandra Bradette and I met for a little chat.

By Carl Savard
Photos by Schaats Foto’s, Patrick Charbonneau, Tony Chung (@SHORTTRACK) and Nancy Bélanger's personnal collection

The beginning

Born in St-Félicien, a proud little town of about ten thousands souls in the province of Quebec, Kasandra Bradette is a lively young woman who has been active all her life. At a young age, she tried out many sports but it is in short track speed skating that she found her passion at the age of ten. From the get go, it was pretty clear for young Kasandra that there was only one speed: all out! Since there was just a few skaters of her age in her part of the world, she constantly competed against the same two or three girls and she had one thing in mind: winning. It did not matter if it was a qualifying round or a main final, she wanted to be first. She was passionate, talented and after a few years, it became pretty clear that she would have to move to Montreal if she wanted to keep climbing to the top.

Caution: speed bumps ahead

It is never easy to uproot and move hundreds of kilometers away from friends and family, even if it means placing yourself in a more fertile environment allowing you to bloom as an athlete. “It was tough to leave home and move to Montreal. At least I had school to keep my head occupied outside of the rink.”  Even though the move was tough, it was nothing compared to the number of bumps that Bradette would have to face in the following years. Back problems appeared for the first time in 2007-2008. A broken ankle slowed her path to greatness in 2010-2011 and her back started acting out again in 2012-2013. While some of the skaters she had battled with as a teenager were preparing for their second trip to the Olympic games, it is once again as a spectator that Bradette would have to follow the Sochi games in 2014. Listening to her while she generously share her story definitely helped me understand all the emotions that she displayed last August when she won her place on the World cup team and the provisional team for the Pyeongchang Olympic games.

The 2017 Canadian selections

If her career stumbled quite a few times in the past, the consistency that she was able to attain while feeling in top form was definitely the key to her success last August. Bradette was able to reach seven of the nine main finals used to select the Canadian team. Those performances got her a spot on the group of five female athletes selected to represent the country in Pyeongchang. “I’ve went through so much in my career that it is an enormous accomplishment for me. In the last four years, I’ve started really believing that I could win my place on the team. It used to be a perfect scenario, a dream that I was not sure I could reach. Finally, I kept pushing and working on finding solutions to my problems and it became real.”  The Olympics are the holy grail for an athlete competing in short track speed skating, but first you need to compete on the World cup circuit to secure spots for your country and Bradette was there this fall to help Canada secure those spots.

The World cup season and the Olympic preparation

It seemed so overwhelming for Kasandra Bradette in September that she might be travelling to the Olympics in 2018, that I thought reaching out later this fall after the World cup season ended would be a good idea.

Were you aware at the beginning of the season what your role was going to be during the different World cup events?

“I competed on 500m and 1000m in Budapest. In Dordrecht the following week, I only skated the relay. I was only part of the 500m in the two World cup events in Asia. I knew at the beginning of the season that I would not compete on 1500m and after the first two legs of the Wolrd cup season, I pretty much knew that unless someone got injured I wouldn’t be part of the 1000m either. The coach confirmed that if I was going to do an individual distance, it would be on 500m but it is possible that I will be the fifth skater of the team helping Canada battle in the relay event.”

How was your health this fall?

“I had a few back and neck issues, but nothing serious. When we came back from the first two competitions, I had a cold that turned into a sinusitis and needed antibiotics before flying out to Asia.”

A lot of people were talking about the Zika virus during the Rio olympic games,  is the political climate in Korea something that you think about?

“No. We are really focusing on our tasks in preparation for the Games. We know about the situation but we trust the different committees. I’m sure they will take the right decision.”

With Christmas just around the corner, do you see it as a challenge considering you are in preparation for the most important competition of your career?

“Holidays will not be an issue because at this time of the year we are always focusing on the Canadian selection that are normally held in January. It will be business as usual.”

Now that the regular season is over and that the next step is the Olympics, are you beginning to realise that this is really happening?

“Everything is more tangible now. Even though since the August selections we were trying to tell ourselves that we were training for the Olympics, we still needed to qualify at the World cup. Now, we are definitely training for Pyeongchang and it couldn’t be more real. We openly talk about it and it helps me realise that I’m really heading for the Games. I’m so proud of all the fights I won to get there and I enjoy each and every moment of this.”

When we look up at the night sky, we often see it as a two dimensions canvas. A velvet stage curtain lit by thousands of little light bulbs and the closer you look, the more you discover other stars. Look closer.

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