The return of Genève Bélanger ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


22 août 2019

The return of Genève Bélanger

Back in March, Genève Bélanger finished 3rd at the Canadian selections in short track securing her spot on the national team and it was quite a comeback for the Montreal-born skater. In the Fall of 2017, Bélanger decided to go train in Calgary. It’s with confidence that she says it was the best decision of her career.

Original text by Caroline Truchon, translated by Carl Savard
Photos by Sébastien Cadorette and Genève Bélanger’s personnal collection

It’s at the age of eight, thanks to her best friend Camille De Serres-Rainville with whom she was imitating short track skaters on her inline skates in the streets, that young Genève stepped on the ice for the first time at the Saint-Michel arena. After winning all the distances at the 2009 Quebec’s games in Valleyfield it became clear for Bélanger that she wanted to become the best and go to the Olympics one day. “When I decide to do something, I go all in. I’m a perfectionist. I’m not taking half-measures.” Genève Bélanger, now twenty-two,  entered the closed circle of the Canadian team at the young age of fourteen years old on a part time schedule and was with the team full time at the age of seventeen. It’s easy to say that the Canadian program probably had huge expectations for her. 

Following the Olympic selections in September of 2017, things just didn’t feel right for Bélanger. “I needed something new. I had the feeling that with the team here in Montreal, I wasn’t able to get the answers I needed despite trying different type of training plans.” That fresh air was found out west. With a more open structure in Calgary, less ice and a more diverse training plan like cycling training camps, Bélanger found what she needed. But her feelings of wanting out of Montreal were deeper than just related to training plans: “I felt like people in Montreal didn’t believe in me as much as they used to.” 

When she arrived in Calgary in 2017, a physiologist spent two weeks evaluating her condition to find out what her body needed. A specific training plan was built to use her strength and work on her weakness. “I learned more about myself in one year in Calgary compared to all the years I had been training in Montreal.” After reconnecting with herself, finding ove and gathering the tools she needed to step it up, Bélanger was ready to come back home in January 2019. She had a better understanding of her needs and felt more confident to stand her ground and express those needs to the coaches. 

Last March, you finished 3rd at the Canadian selections to earn your spot on the team. How did it feel?
“What I wanted the most was to feel good on the ice, to be proud. I can’t really describe how I felt with my results. There were a few girls I just couldn’t beat in the past and now I was doing it. I was so happy. It felt like a deliverance. It confirmed that my decision to leave for Calgary was the right one. If I hadn’t make that move, I would have stopped.”

In the last few years, many athletes had problems with overtraining, do you feel it’s due to the fact that the structure or program may be too rigid?
“The Netherlands, Italy and Hungary were not even on the ice yet and here in Canada we were already doing speed training sessions. I think some changes need to happen when it comes to working with the new generation of athletes. Just like it’s true with technology, things have evolved in the way athletes are trained. I think we are having difficulties to evolve. We seem to be focused on doing things because they used to work in the past. I think we need to be more open. On certain aspects we can see small changes and it’s encouraging. It means the team is starting to listen to the skaters and just like its skaters it wants to be better but things don’t change overnight. We have to admit we are not as strong as we used to be, we need to change our mentality."

What are you goals for the 2019-2020 season?
“Compete on the World cup circuit. I miss it a lot. Since the begining of the summer, it’s all I have in mind. Anything can happen, but I have to confess, I will be disappointed if I don’t win my spot on the World cup team. At the same time, I know we are a strong group of female skaters on the team so the fight will be tough but I really hope to be back on the international scene this season. 

How’s training going so far this summer?
“It’s going realy well. We are training three weeks and then have one week off. I had the opportunity to go back to Calgary and enjoy nature and hiking. After that, I felt ready for another three weeks push. Frédéric, my coach, adjusted my training well. We’ve known each other since I was ten years old. Even when the others were working on speed, I was still building a strong foundation based on stamina. Something I used to do in Calgary. We agreed on keeping it that way. I can tolerate intense workouts, but my body needs a strong base first.”

I think it’s fair to say we can expect good results from Genève Bélanger this season. When I asked her if there was anything she’d like to share before we end this interview, she wanted to send a message to all athletes in any sport reading these lines: “Bad results will never determine who you are as a person. As long as you have faith in yourself, there is hope. If you’re ready to work hard, you can do anything.” Hope is something the 22-year-old athlete from Montreal kept focusing on and she is now ready to reach for greatness.”

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