Turgeon and Turner overcome major challenges in past four years

Canadian Paralympic Committee

February 24, 2022

Paralympic athletes juggle high and lows of life and sport


After four years in the spin cycle, Tyler Turner and Frédérique Turgeon hope to emerge with a satisfying performance at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games which run March 4-13 in Beijing.

The two Para athletes discussed their challenges on Wednesday during a special 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games version of Team Canada Champion Chats. The Champion Chats connects athletes with school children across the country, sharing their stories and lessons learned through sport.

Para snowboarder Turner lost both legs below the knee because of a skydiving accident in 2017, a freak crash after filming a guest complete their first tandem skydive from 10,000 feet.

He faced many challenges in a difficult recovery but has come back to making multiple jumps a day as a skydiving instructor in addition to his exploits in snowboarding. He also competes in adaptive surfing. He will be competing at his first Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Last month he won an unexpected two gold medals and a bronze at the 2022 World Para Snow Sports Championships, winning the snowboard cross event and joining forces for victory with Alex Massie in the team event.

“It’s been a long process for me and I hit a lot of dead ends,” admitted the 33-year-old from Campbell River, B.C. “That’s when you have to really dig in into that growth mindset. I would find myself not wanting to keep going and I had to dig deeper to find that perseverance to keep pushing forward which got me to train and put myself at a level to go to the Paralympics.”

Para alpine skier Turgeon has enjoyed success since her Paralympic Games debut in PyeongChang four years ago. In early 2019, she collected her first two career World Cup wins. Then a few weeks later she was one of Canada’s big stars at the world championships with a silver and two bronze in the women’s standing events.

However that period of success remains an emotional and turbulent period for the 22-year-old from Candiac, Que. Her father and biggest fan Ronald Turgeon died of a heart attack in late 2018. Turgeon had just returned home from a World Cup in Europe.

“He picked me up at the airport and I got to spend that last night with him talking about skiing which was amazing,” said Turgeon, born with a congenital femoral deficiency in her right leg, which is 50 per cent shorter than the left.

“He loved watching me develop in the sport, achieve goals. I pushed myself to keep racing for my Dad because I know how much passion he had for the sport.

“I think it’s kind of hard to push all those emotions and sadness on the side and turn them into some sort of joy, so I kind of make the switch that my Dad passed away but I’m going to turn it into I’m happy I’m able to ski for him.”

Before his triumphant worlds, Turner regularly battled self-confidence and anxiety before his races. He has worked to find solutions for those issues this season.

“The things that really cause the self doubt for me are if I’m just about to go to the start gate and I’m still running through how I am going to do this,” he said. “What I’ve really worked on this season is to practice so much that it’s automatic you don’t have to think about it anymore. About 10 minutes before my race I stop thinking about it, I think about surfing, I think about just having fun.”

The pandemic appears to have put a stick in the wheels of Turgeon’s development. She is trying to regain the form that pushed her to the top of her sport and self-doubt has crept in.

“I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to compete because I feel like I can do it again,” she said. “That’s when my mind starts running and it can’t stop. When that happens, I sit down and meditate. I clip out of my skis and just focus on something else.

“When I’m super calm and confident that’s when I perform at my best and have fun.”


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