I call the hotel in northern Italy and the man at reception says he’ll find Emily Brydon right away.

“Everyone knows her,” he claims.

There’s chuckling and I make out Emily’s voice as she scurries to the phone leaving her ski buddies for a moment. No doubt they’ll pardon the interruption and anxiously wait to hear the finish of her latest tall tale.

Brydon has been an enormous part of the Canadian ski story for more than a decade. She’s a constant contender and stood on the World Cup podium nine times. That’s more than any female in this country’s alpine history with the exception of Nancy Greene, Laurie Graham and Betsy Clifford.

That’s exceptional company to keep.

Then again, Emily Brydon is an exceptional woman — larger than life some might say.

Her third Olympics in 2010 will be her last as she moves on with a career that includes the operation of a children’s foundation near her home in Fernie, B.C. She also wants to work with Right to Play and make more trips to Africa to help desperate kids.

“By putting a definite conclusion to my career, I’ve sort of inspired myself,” she says. “I don’t want to have any regrets.”

Brydon is a survivor and can make the best of any given situation. That’s why she’s the acknowledged leader of the Canadian female team, unofficially dubbed The Speed Queens. It’s a tight-knit group that has lost stars Kelly VanderBeek and Larisa Yurkiw to injury.

“I’ve experienced it all,” Brydon sighs wistfully. “It would be easy to get caught up in the sadness of those who won’t experience the Games. But it makes me appreciate the team we have. We need to keep going. We have a job to do.”

There’s also an unfinished story to tell and even on a phone, thousands of miles away, I can sense Brydon believes there can be a happy ending.

“I’m totally prepared,” she stresses.

“I have to hold on to that. I’m so proud to be Canadian.”

I say goodbye to her, hoping the speed queen’s last hurrah will be a tall tale we can all remember for many years to come.

– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.