Clifton Brown did not believe what he was hearing when his daughter broke the news a few years ago that she was going to attempt bobsledding.
“I said, oh no, you got to be really crazy,” recalled Brown. “I did not know too much about the sport. I thought it was just for men and it was much too dangerous. I told her she might not want to do that.”
The family patriarch however was not about to challenge Shelley-Ann about her desire to try a new sport.
“She’s someone who is very adventurous and has her own way of doing things,” he said. “Once she puts her mind to a task, she sees it to the end and with good results most of the time.”
Clifton and his wife Lena, who migrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1971, proudly watched their youngest daughter make history by becoming one of two Black Canadian women to win Winter Olympics medals at last month’s Vancouver Games.
“Shelley-Ann has always been special,” said Clifton. “When she was just about a year old, she started reading her own bedtime stories after I fell asleep while reading to her one night. The other amazing thing that happened when she was very young was that we were on the verge of pulling her out of daycare because of limited finances when the owner stepped in and said our daughter could stay and they would use her to teach the other kids.”
Last Saturday, the Pickering Carib-Canadian Cultural Association (PCCCA) honoured Brown at a community reception at Sarah McDonald’s Place named after the educator and PCCCA founding member who was the vice-principal at Dunbarton High School where Brown was enrolled.
“This is a blessed day for your parents, Dunbarton and Canada,” McDonald told Brown. “We are proud of you.”
Ajax-Pickering MP Mark Holland reminded the Winter Olympics medalist that she’s a role model and inspiration for many Canadians while Ajax-Pickering MPP Joe Dixon said Brown exemplifies all that is the best about the Olympic movement.
Added Pickering-Scarborough East MP Dan McTeague: “We are proud of what you have done. Your victory means a lot to us. You are a role model for generations to come.”
Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan promised that the city will honour Brown at its civic awards ceremony on May 31.
Brown, who has a Masters in Educational Psychology, has been very busy since her Olympics success, making appearances at schools and corporate events in the Greater Toronto Area.
“It’s been quite hectic, but I am really humbled and honoured that people want to hear from me,” said the brakeman. “However, I will do anything to inspire young people, especially from our community.”
Carlisle Miller of Café Crème Brulee presented a miniature cake bobsleigh and medal to Brown.
“Shelley-Ann’s mother wanted us to do a special cake, but we did not have time,” Miller explained. “We, however, decided we had to do something and we came up with this unique cake that took about six hours.”
Brown and the rest of the African-Canadians at the Vancouver Olympics all won medals.
Short track speed skater Kalyna Roberge was part of the 3,000-metre silver medal relay team, Jarome Iginla won his second ice hockey gold medal and Jamaican-born Lascelles Brown secured a bronze medal in the four-man bobsled event.