Despite the frigid air, NextGen athlete Brooklyn McDougall of Team Alberta was on fire in the long track speed skating events at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. As a 2015 Games alumna, McDougall came into the competition with specific goals and a relaxed approach. ''I kept it simple and skated no different than any other competition. I had trained so hard and was so focused on the 2019 Games, when I won the 5 medals plus a fourth-place finish in my sixth event, I knew my hard work had paid off.'' McDougall continues to train full-time with the national development team at the Olympic Oval while studying Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. She will be one to watch this upcoming season as her sights are set on qualifying for the Senior World Cup Circuit in the fall!
What was your 2019 Canada Winter Games experience like and how was it different from other competitions you have attended?
I was very lucky to attend my second Canada Games in 2019, the first being in Prince George in 2015. Compared to four years ago, I felt a lot stronger and confident in my skating going into the 2019 Games. Canada Games is a very special event that we are so lucky to have in our country! It truly feels like a “mini Olympics” that is designed to showcase the up-and-coming generation of athletes in Canada. My experience at the 2019 Games was so surreal, especially being a part of the host province. Representing Alberta at a multisport event is like no other competition I have competed at. Walking around the Athlete’s Village, you’re making friends with athletes from other sports, and in your head, you wonder if you’re talking to the next Sidney Crosby or Hayley Wickenheiser!
How did you prepare for the 2019 Canada Winter Games given that it was the largest competition you would have competed in?
In preparation for these Games, I ensured my mental game was strong and trusted my skating abilities. I kept it simple and skated no different than any other competition. I had trained so hard and was so focused on the 2019 Games, when I won the 5 medals plus a fourth-place finish in my six events, I knew my hard work had paid off. To have broken two Canada Winter Games records was truly icing on the cake! I am so grateful for the support of my teammates and staff.
What was your favourite memory/highlight from the Games?
I have so many memories it’s very tough to choose one. Definitely one of my favourites was my first gold medal in the women’s 1500m. It was so cold that day that we had to put Vaseline on our faces so we didn’t get frostbite! But crossing the finish line after the race ended, it made the -25 weather totally worth it. Another one of my favourite memories was walking into the opening ceremonies with Team Alberta. The crowd was so excited for the host province to walk in and it felt magical!
Now that the Games are over, what is the next goal that you want to accomplish in your sport?
Currently, I am training with the National Team in Calgary. I am very lucky to be working alongside our top sprinters in Canada. They push me every day and it has motivated me even more to earn a spot on the Senior World Cup circuit this season.
Is there a specific athlete that you look up to or who has inspired you along your athletic journey?
Since I began my career in speed skating, Catriona Le May Doan has been someone I have looked up to. Not only is she one of the most incredible skaters of all time, but she achieved that status with such poise and confidence. Catriona is a leader on and off the ice, and she is an inspiration to so many young female athletes. I hope to one day inspire young girls too.
Outside of sports, what other passions/hobbies do you have?
Along with my full-time training schedule, I am also a student at the University of Calgary in Biological Sciences. I have a passion for medical research and I work in stroke research and prevention at the Foothills Hospital. My academic goal is to attend medical school! I also have a passion for travelling and spending time outdoors.
What’s one unique thing about your sport that a lot of people don’t know?
Even though our blades look completely flat, they are actually rounded slightly, which is called the rocker. They are also slightly bent, called the bend. These can be adjusted to suit the ice conditions, the skater and the distances they focus on to improve efficiency and speed!
What is your biggest aspiration in both your sport and your life?
In speed skating, my biggest goal is to make the Olympic team and to represent Canada. In life, while I am working to achieve my goals both inside and outside of speed skating, I want to enjoy this journey and not take anything for granted. I am so lucky to have the opportunities I do, and it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture. My biggest aspiration is to inspire the next generation to work hard and dream big.
If you could compete in your sport against any athlete either living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would want to compete – or better yet, train – with Catriona Le May Doan so I can feed off of her expertise in skating!
What advice would you give to any young athletes training towards the goal of competing at the Canada Games?
My advice is to have fun! When I am performing my best, it is when I remind myself of the reason why I compete – for my love of speed skating. There will be obstacles when you’re working to achieve your goals, but it makes you a stronger athlete and person. During those times you have to remind yourself to have fun and enjoy your sport!