VANCOUVER – Tania Vicent marched her young Canadian teammates through the throng of reporters.
She’d clearly done this before.
The 34-year-old, more than a decade older than all of her teammates, captured her fourth medal in four Olympic appearances at the Vancouver Olympics on Wednesday, teaming with Jessica Gregg, Kalyna Roberge and Marianne St-Gelais to finish second in the women’s 3,000-metre short-track speedskating relay.
Asked how she has managed to stick around so long in such an unforgiving sport, Vicent said: “For this feeling right now, that’s why I stay on.”
Canada won the silver behind China, bumped up from bronze when South Korea was disqualified. The Americans were awarded third.
Vicent’s medal performance is a remarkable accomplishment to cap a career that has certainly seen its fair share of highs and lows.
The Laval, Que., native lost her mom in 2004 after a long battle with cancer, she underwent hip surgery that sidelined her for the 2006-07 season and then struggled upon her return, failing to qualify for last year’s world championship team which prompted thoughts of retirement.
Vicent sat down and made a list of what she needed to do to regain her spot on the Canadian team, and then proceeded to check them off.
Her pure love of the sport, she said, is what’s kept her going.
“I love my team, the travelling is great, it’s the best life,”she said. “I’m 34 and my job is to stay in shape. You can’t ask for more than that, it’s a really great life.
“I know the training is hard, short-track is hard on the legs, sometimes you want to vomit because you feel so bad on the ice, it’s a hard sport. But I am stopping, these are my last Games, and the fact that they’re my last Games, and we have a silver medal, I’m ecstatic right now, I’m really happy.”
Vicent’s medals have all come in relays — bronze in 1998 and 2002, silver in 2006, and Wednesday’s silver in front of a roaring crowd at Pacific Coliseum.
“Someone said I’m a lucky charm for the relay, and I like that,” Vicent said. “I was thinking I’d better not break that streak of lucky charm.”
The skater has been dubbed the ”grandma” of the speed-skating squad — Roberge is the next oldest at 23, Gregg is 21 and St-Gelais is 20 — but it’s a label that doesn’t sit well with her. She’s fiercely proud of her longevity, and hopes she’s blazed a trail for young skaters to follow.
“All these girls are between 19 and 23 and I can still race against them which means the world to me,” she said. “Two years ago, it was hard… last year I was 14th in Canada, I did horrible, I was injured, everything happened. For me to come back and still prove myself at 34 is a really good feeling and I hope it will bring other girls to that level and not think that they have to stop when they’re 23 because life is starting because this is life.
“It’s the best life ever.”