Prince Albert Paralympian hoping for medal haul in Beijing

Prince Albert’s Brittany Hudak is hoping to add to her Olympic silverware when the 2022 Winter Paralympics begin next month.

Roughly 10 years ago, Hudak never imagined she’d be going to her second Paralympic Games in the para nordic skiing event, let alone having the goal of bringing home a gold medal.

While working at Canadian Tire part-time during her studies as a university student, Hudak was approached by Colette Bourgonje, a decorated sit-skier from Prince Albert.

The 28-year-old didn’t know what she was getting herself into.

“I just went home that day with kind of that gut feeling that I wanted to try skiing,” she said. “I’ve never really looked back since then and I’ve been on the national team the last eight years.”

Bourgonje didn’t know if Hudak would have a knack for the sport, but she had to try.

“SASKI adaptive snow sports had actually asked me if I could find some potential people in the area and she was one of the first people that I found,” Bourgonje said before she and Hudak were able to work together.

“I just saw that “Wow, she has a lot of potential and it was super exciting, because she was motivated.”

Hudak was born missing part of left arm below the elbow, a congenital disability. While she enjoyed being active as a child, she never found her true calling her until Bourgonje approached her.

“When I started cross-country skiing I learned right away how much I liked to be outside,” she said, not realizing what a natural fit she would be for the sport.

“The long-distance workouts I found actually suited my personality really well. I find I get a little bit restless and stir-crazy really easy.”

Bourgonje, who spends her days as a teacher, relishes the opportunity to inspire and train with Hudak.

A 10-time Olympic veteran dating back to 1992, Bourgonje was able to pass on her drive and passion to Hudak. With a résumé featuring 11 Olympic medals, Hudak found listening to Bourgonje’s lessons was easy.

“It’s awesome when you when you find someone who is as motivated and has the potential like she has. But when you get into coaching, you see how much you can change their lives,” Bourgonje said.

At first, Hudak struggled to perform at a high level as she sought to strike that balance between workouts, recovery and her studies. With a more detailed approach to cross-country skiing during this latest Olympic cycle, she feels she’s poised for an outstanding performance.

“These last four years have felt (like) my best yet, so I’m really excited for these games,” Hudak said.

“I feel confident that I’ve put in a lot of really good training hours these last couple years.”

Hudak managed to qualify for the 2014 games in Sochi just a year after she began competing. She moved to Canmore, Alta in 2015 once she made the national team to compete full-time. For the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, she finished on the podium with a bronze medal around her neck.

“It’s just nice when you go out and you do a race and you feel that it was the best of your ability. You felt good, you executed your race well and end up with a personal best performance,” Hudak said.

With five different events on her slate – split between biathlon and cross-country skiing — when the games begin on March 4 in Beijing, Hudak has her hopes high.

“Honestly, I’m having a tough time containing my excitement to go to Beijing,” Hudak said. “Regardless of what happens, I feel so well supported at this stage of my career.”

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