You can call it perseverance or determination, but Grace Dafoe will call it stubbornness. “All of my years of being stubborn, working hard and persevering through my childhood and through my teenage years, just doing it for the general love of the sport really built what I have now and my work ethic.”
Whichever way you slice it, DaFoe is committed to her sport. The Canadian National Skeleton Team member from Calgary, Alberta has always seemingly been destined for a sport career on ice, although not always in the form of racing down a track headfirst. Dafoe participated in figure skating up until she was 18 years old, but as she recalls, “I knew that I still had this competitive fire and figure skating just wasn’t working out for me.”
Perhaps DaFoe can credit her high school science textbook, featuring a skeleton athlete on the front cover, or the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for sparking her interest in skeleton. A connection through her father helped get her in touch with other skeleton athletes who were able to pass along helpful information on the sport.
“The transition wasn’t super seamless,” admits Dafoe. “The biggest transition was a lot of track athletes or rugby athletes come into the [skeleton] program and they already know how to sprint. That was my biggest issue, was that I had only ran high school track for one year, so I had to learn to sprint.”
“I wouldn’t say it was love at first slide, but it intrigued me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” continues Dafoe. The calculated risk, attention to detail and technical aspect of skeleton has kept her going, despite some bumps along the way.
Balancing training with her first-year of university, working multiple jobs to fund her training, and a minor car accident could be enough to have anyone questioning their current path. “There was a lot going on at that time and I just felt a little lost. When I reflect now, how I was lost in my career, lost in what I wanted to do, then I started to take skeleton for granted and I feel like I didn’t pay attention to just the details as much to where my physical performance started to suffer a little bit,” reflects Dafoe.
“When I reflect now … again, the stubbornness, it has made me who I am now and it’s why I pay so much attention to the details as well now, all that extra work, sport psych – all the little stuff I don’t take for granted because of those years where my physical performance wasn’t great and I wasn’t in a great space in general.”
“The moment that really hooked me was representing Canada in Park City, Utah for the North America’s Cup for the first time and standing on the line and hearing, ‘next up, representing Canada, Grace DaFoe’. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.”
Dafoe's competitive drive and desire to continue moving forward is echoed in her advice for those young athletes who think a career in sport isn’t in the cards for them. “When you put your head down and you do the work and you’re committed and check off all those boxes, it’s going to come to fruition sometime.”
Hear more about Grace DaFoe’s journey through the skeleton world, her travels and favourite tracks in Europe, representing Team Canada and her involvement with Classroom of Champions, KidSport Calgary and Fast and Female in Episode #121 of The Athletes Podcast.