The Olympic games are just days away, and our students and staff are buzzing with excitement waiting to cheer on one of our own. Barrhead native and former Pembina Hills student Melissa Lotholz will compete for Canada in the women’s bobsleigh at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Having competed on the World Cup Tour since 2014, the 25 year-old says she is ready for the games, both physically and mentally. Lotholz is part of Canada’s largest Olympic bobsleigh and skeleton team. For the first time in Canadian history, the women have qualified three sleds.
Lotholz credits her rural roots for the virtues and character lessons she developed growing up. Farm life taught her about the value of hard work and dedication. Lotholz, who calls herself a go-getter, attributes much of her success to three things: hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks.
For example, in Grade 12 she earned the Most Improved award for basketball. Her team wasn’t doing great so she convinced teammates to show up for early morning shooting practices. After that, they began to improve, the team turned around and she was recognized for her contribution to the team with her never-quit attitude.
Melissa has visited our schools over the past few years speaking with students, and we know that many of them will be watching as she competes in her first Olympic games. We asked what she would say to all the kids watching, the ones who perhaps dream of competing at the Olympics one day. Here’s what she had to say:
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
The quote belongs to Wayne Gretzky, but it’s one Melissa strongly believes in. “If there’s something you really want to do, go after it and see what happens!” she says. For example, when Lotholz was a member of the University of Alberta varsity track team, a teammate was asked to try out for Bobsleigh, and she was invited to go along. She took the risk, but also recognized it as an opportunity, one that turned out pretty well for her. She says, “Be open to trying new things, even if it’s a challenge or not what you planned – it’s about taking risks, choosing to open doors.”
Don’t worry about the things you can’t control
“I can’t control the competition, sometimes I can’t even control what happens with my own body. I just work hard and trust that the results will come,” says Lotholz. That’s one of the things she learned growing up on a farm. There are so many things out of your control, sport is a lot like farming. The farmer needs to prepare well ahead of time – get the ground ready, plant the seeds, take care of the crop through the season, do all the work, and most importantly trust that there will be a harvest. She says, “My dad used to tell me, you can’t worry about the storm clouds, just do what you can do.”
Enjoy the ride – the rewards are endless
“The rewards for me are multi-faceted – I get to compete for Canada at the Olympics. But there are other rewards — I also get to be an example for young people. The Olympics isn’t the end-all for me, it’s just one of the fantastic things that is going to happen for me on my journey. I hope that my dreams will inspire someone else to work hard. For me the big reward is the person that I will become as I go along on my journey,” said Lotholz.
Local support is so important
The expenses associated with training and competing at this level are very high, and all our amateur athletes rely on sponsorship. As a member of the national team, Lotholz does receive a monthly stipend from Sport Canada via the Athletes Assistance Program, however it’s not enough to cover her own living expenses and individual training costs. Melissa says that she is very thankful for the tremendous amount of support she has received from her church and the community. “It makes a huge difference for me – it allows me to focus on training,” she said.
You can show your support by purchasing a custom “Melissa Lotholz” t-shirt at Barb’s Sewing, located on Main Street in Barrhead. The fundraiser is organized by her mom, Wendy, and all the proceeds go directly to support Melissa’s training.
Key dates and times to watch Melissa
February 9 – Opening Ceremonies – 3:30 am MST (To be replayed at 7 pm MST)
February 20 – Women’s Bobsleigh Heat 1 & 2 – Begins at 4:50 am MST
February 21 – Women’s Bobsleigh Heat 3 & 4 (Final) – Begins at 4:40 am MST
Our staff and students across the division will be cheering for Melissa and we wish her all the best at the Olympic games!