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Olympian Cassie Sharpe's inspiring advice for young athletes: Enjoy the journey

Also, discover how the Squamish resident plans to make her return to competitive skiing while being a new mother.

Squamish Olympian Cassie Sharpe is on the phone to talk about recently being inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame for the class of 2024, but a coo erupts in the background before the questions start. 

Her two-and-a-half-month-old daughter, "Lou" (Louella), is trying a Jolly Jumper for the first time.

"It is pretty funny," said Sharpe, as giggling ensued. "[She's] a little unsure, but she's chilling."

It was just before Halloween when The Squamish Chief reached Sharpe. She noted Lou would be sporting a cow romper for the occasion of her first Hallows' Eve.

Sharpe, among many other achievements, won women’s freestyle ski half-pipe gold and silver medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, respectively.

The Squamish Chief caught up with the busy athlete—and new mom—for a chat about her induction, life in Squamish, and all that is next. 

What follows is a version of the conversation edited for length and clarity.

With the recent announcement of your induction into the Hall of Fame, I read you were a bit shocked, given you aren't at the end of your career? 

Yeah. You have to be nominated to go into it; a total stranger nominated me. I didn't see it coming. I didn't know that I had been nominated. So, it was a pretty cool email to get.

It's interesting to be inducted into the Hall of Fame kind of mid-career. I'm not done yet. So I'm like, "Well, I hope I can just add to the accomplishments and be worthy of being inducted."

You've had so many big accomplishments. How does this fit into it all?

It is cool because it encompasses all of my accomplishments at once. It puts them into a neat little package.

It is always funny when you achieve something like this and all these communities claim you as their own: Squamish, Whistler and Comox, right? 

It's fun. I have lived in a couple of places in my day.

It is cool to have grown up in Comox. That is my roots and where it all started. And then I moved up to Whistler as soon as I graduated from high school. I lived there for something like eight years. Then my husband and I bought a house in the Highlands [in Squamish] three years ago. 

Every community holds a pretty special place in my heart. So, I'm grateful to have been a part of each.

Just having had your first baby, what is your plan for getting back into skiing? 

My plan is to hang out with Lou for a few months. I'll probably be with her ‘till June, so I am taking the season off. 

Then there's a training camp in California in June in Mammoth. If that all goes well, I will go to New Zealand in September and start competing in the season of 2024/25, which is an Olympic-qualifying year. And then compete all the way through and hopefully make it back to the 2026 Olympics in Italy.

You have got a lot going on. In your sport, you have always challenged gender norms, I guess you could say. Having a baby is a time when a lot of social expectations around women and motherhood can pop up. How have you navigated that as a woman in elite-level sport?

I've got a lot of people around me who are super supportive of the plan to come back to sport; especially my mom. She's going to be pretty much a nanny for me on the road. 

I also think having sponsors, like Lululemon and Columbia, that are super, super supportive of having a kid is huge because I'm able to bring her everywhere. I'll have that support system around to be an involved mom while still being an athlete—being able to juggle both.

I'm going to have to figure out the right balance there, but I'm pretty excited to do it.

I acknowledge, too, that we don't really ask new dad athletes these questions. It just seems like something that is more of an issue for female athletes.

Everybody has the breastfeeding conversation, too. Even with that—how long can I do it? As soon as I start skiing, that is a lot on the body. There's so much involved with being a mom and having that demand on your body. There's definitely other conversations that moms have versus dads.

And obviously, your partner [Justin Dorey] is very supportive, too.

He's amazing and he works from home. So, just knowing that I have that backup. And my parents moved to Brackendale about a month ago. Just having them that close by is huge.

That is great. Going back to your sport, what is your advice for young athletes starting out, hoping to follow in your footsteps? 

 I think I took myself too seriously at the start. I was so competitive. I just needed to be the best and do the best. If I could go back in time, I think I would tell myself to take a chill pill. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy the time you're spending doing what you love, like travelling to all these beautiful places to compete. I think I needed to soak it in a bit more, as opposed to being so focused on winning even though it did end up working for me. 

Going into the Beijing 2022 Olympics, I was coming back from a knee injury. I competed in the finals a year to the day of my knee surgery. So, I was kind of like, “I am here I made it. That was my biggest goal." So I went into the finals with the biggest smile on my face, just having fun. 

I think that's ultimately what set me up to get on the podium again—having fun and enjoying myself.

Just take it all in stride and enjoy yourself; soak that up along the way, though it is easier said than done. That is what I would go back and tell my younger self.

There will be an official ceremony in May celebrating Sharpe and the other inductees to the Hall of Fame. 

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