The dream of being an Olympic participant has become reality for Pickering resident Shelley-Ann Brown.
She’s one of three African-Canadian representatives at the Vancouver Winter Olympics from February 12-28. Brown and Jamaican-born Lascelles Brown are brakemen in the two-man bobsled events while Edmonton-born hockey player Jarome Iginla, whose father is a Nigerian lawyer, is making his third appearance at the quadrennial Games.
Brown said she received the good news last January 17 while the team was in Austria for a World Cup event.
The Canadian bobsled-skeleton teams were unveiled last Wednesday in Calgary.
“I knew I was not a certainty because there were four of us competing for two spots,” said the former University of Nebraska student athlete. “And even though I was extremely delighted, I felt a bit sad and I cried for the two girls who did not make the team because we all worked very hard and had forged a close bond.”
The former track star, who has a Masters in Education Psychology, has made significant improvements since taking up the sport four years ago and is considered one of the top brakemen on the circuit. She will be Helen Upperton’s brakeman in Vancouver.
“Shelley is a wonderful and amazing person who I unfortunately have not had the pleasure of racing with very much,” Upperton said in her blog. “I am proud to be her teammate at the Olympics, but it has taken some time for me to adjust because it just is not the way I pictured this season to go.”
Jenny Ciochetti, who was Upperton’s regular brakeman for the last four years, did not make the team.
Brown, 29, and her Olympic teammates are in California making final preparations before next Friday’s opening ceremony.
“I have always felt that is the most poignant part of the Games and I want to be there marching with all the other athletes,” she said.
Brown’s parents and other family members will be in Vancouver for the Olympics.
“It’s going to be a thrill for them just as it is going to be for me and I am so glad it’s in Canada where most of them can come to see me perform. The script could not have been better.”
Becoming the first African-Canadian woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics is also a priority for Brown who credits Lascelles Brown with inspiring her during the season.
“He has been like a big brother to me and it’s something that I really appreciate,” she added. “He has been there with me most of the way.”
Lascelles Brown represented Jamaica at the 2002 Salt Lake Games where he set the track push record before moving to Calgary later that year. He was awarded Canadian citizenship by special exemption two weeks before the 2006 Turin Olympics where he teamed up with Pierre Lueders to capture a silver medal and become the first Jamaican-born to win a Winter Olympics medal.