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Christina Picton: Bow Valley's Beijing Bound Athletes

“There were parts of being an athlete that maybe I was missing out on because the women’s game it’s still not at that elite level, it’s not at the Paralympic level."

Christina Picton, Para nordic skiing, multi-sport representative for Canada

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Christina Picton switching high-level sports in her late 20s is the big, blank canvas in front of her.

A former star on the national women’s Para hockey team, Picton traded in her hockey sticks for ski poles more than a year ago as an athletic test called out to a curious soul searching for more.

A mega fan of The Office, the TV show’s main character rallied his troops with a motivating, albeit familiar, quote that’s relatable here: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott.”

The 28-year-old found an answer in Canmore, Canada’s Mecca of cross-country skiing, approximately 3,500 kilometres away from her hometown of Fonthill, smack dab in the middle of Ontario’s wine country.

“When I was exposed to skiing and the culture, it was a whole new challenge and chance to push myself as athlete that I don’t know I would have gotten in hockey,” said Picton.

“I had played hockey for 17 years and I had loved it. Like no regrets there at all, but I think I had some different experiences in the last two or three seasons playing hockey that just left me feeling like I had more to learn as an athlete.”

She’s quickly picked up Para nordic skiing, competing in both cross-country and biathlon, and is consistently in the fight for medals the past two seasons, including three top-five results at the Canmore World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup last December.

She’s still learning, but her turnaround in sports is rather remarkable. Coming from an elite level of hockey, Picton has pretty high expectations for herself.

Three years ago, Picton, who wore the “C” in hockey for Canada, was one of four women invited to the men’s national Para hockey development camp, where she played against the United States. From there, she was invited to the national senior men’s national team tryout and was exposed to Hockey Canada and a whole new elite level.

The experience was unlike anything she’d ever been a part of. But it left her with a feeling that there’s more out there.

“There were parts of being an athlete that maybe I was missing out on because the women’s game it’s still not at that elite level, it’s not at the Paralympic level,” she said.

Representing Canada at the Paralympics has been a childhood dream, but it wasn’t entirely the motivation to switch sports. In Para nordic skiing, Picton enjoys being pushed to unseen limits and having her mind opened to new styles of training. The cherry on top for her is it’s for the fun of the sport.

Picton was born with a congenital deficiency that impaired growth of both legs. At age 16, her right leg was amputated below the knee.

She’s a sit-skier, which is like sitting in one giant ski boot and athletes propel themselves forward with ski poles.

Having to travel two and a half hours one-way to get to skiing snow in Ontario became monotonous for Picton, so a move across Canada to get serious about training became a clear path for her.

A connoisseur of the good wine, the artist at heart started graphic design company Amped Design & Creative after moving to Canmore in 2021 to flex her imaginative muscles outside of skiing.

The soon-to-be Paralympian looks back on the days when left out of school sports, but was ever-so curious everyday of what she could athletically do.

“I think once I found sport and adaptive Para sport it was just like this whole new world of like community and a place where I could push my limits and see what I was capable of,” said Picton.

One day, she’ll head back to hockey. But for now, she is good with where she’s at.

“I feel like there’s a lot of years ahead of me in this sport, so that’s pretty cool.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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