In our “Where are they now?” series, Olympic.ca gives you a glimpse at what’s new in the lives of some great Team Canada Olympians since they said goodbye to their careers as athletes.
Known as Canada’s most decorated Olympic cross-country skier, Beckie Scott’s influence extends well beyond the medals won in her 11 years on the national team during which she competed at three Olympic Games.
Whether it be her efforts towards fair play and advocating for clean sport or using her legacy to empower Indigenous youth, Scott believes her passion for sport has actually increased since leaving her competition days behind.
Scott was named to her first Olympic team for Nagano 1998, where she competed in five events. Four years later, with just two World Cup podiums to her credit, she became the first North American woman to win an Olympic medal of any colour in cross-country skiing.
A year later, the original 5km+5km pursuit gold medallist was disqualified for a positive drug test and Scott was elevated from bronze to silver. Then as history repeated itself, the new gold medallist was also disqualified for doping. More than two-and-a-half years after the race at Salt Lake City 2002, Scott was awarded what was rightfully hers — an Olympic gold medal. This experience laid the groundwork for her extensive advocacy for anti-doping.
In her final Olympic appearance at Turin 2006, Scott landed on the podium again, winning silver with Sara Renner in the classic team sprint. Scott, a trailblazer for Nordic sports in Canada, has her name on two of the four Olympic medals won by Canadian cross-country skiers.
Scott retired at the end of the 2005-06 World Cup season. In addition to her Olympic success, Scott earned 15 career World Cup podiums and two fourth-place finishes at the FIS World Championships. Ten of those World Cup medals, including four gold, were achieved in her last season.
“I would say the highlight of my career was finishing second in the overall World Cup standings in my final year of competing. The cross-country skiing World Cup calendar is five months long and pretty punishing. You have to race all over the world and show up ready to contend for results in a full spectrum of disciplines (from sprinting to distance),” Scott told Olympic.ca. “[I] was so happy to finish the season – and my career actually – on such a high note.”
Her retirement marked a new beginning for her involvement in sport. During the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Scott was elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission for an eight-year term. She served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee. She led Team Canada as Chef de Mission for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck.
Scott has stood out as a tireless advocate and lobbyist for drug-free sport, recognized globally for being a consistent voice on such a major issue. She joined the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee in 2005 and served as the Committee’s Chair from 2014 to 2019. She is also a former board member of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.
In recent years, Scott’s legacy has grown as she took on a mission to empower and inspire Indigenous youth through sport and play. In 2020, Scott received an OLY Canada Legacy Grant on behalf of Spirit North, of which she is founder and CEO. The non-profit seeks to provide meaningful change for the youth of the Tsuut’ina Nation through opportunities to experience the power of land-based sport and activity.
Her journey began when she was asked to be an Ambassador for the first iteration of Spirit North. At the time, it was basically a learn-to-ski program for kids in northern Alberta. As Scott began travelling to these communities and skiing with the children, she was “truly disturbed” by what she saw.
“It was the first time I had seen first-hand the realities of life for Indigenous communities,” she said. “I was struck particularly by the incredible inequality that exists for Indigenous vs non-Indigenous kids. In parallel, I was also seeing the universal joy and transformative experience that kids have when they have an opportunity to take part in sport and activity, and how powerful the concept of sport-for-development can really be.”
Despite having no experience running a non-profit, Scott was determined that there was incredible potential for Spirit North to serve more communities and more kids. So she took it over!
Before we close the door on 2020, we wanted to send a heartfelt note of appreciation to our supporters.
Your generosity in 2020 translated in to hope, belief and inspiration and helped us continue the vital work of connecting Indigenous youth to health through sport and play. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/KRrOtF3ZQ3
— Spirit North (@spiritnorthxc) January 20, 2021
Today, Spirit North implements the delivery of in-school and after-school sport and activity programs, providing leadership, coaching certifications, equipment support, and community engagement opportunities. Scott says that many of the students in their programs live challenging lives and tell heart-breaking stories. One solution she and Spirit North can offer is the chance to connect to something positive.
“We really see ourselves as helping to facilitate connections for kids as to what might be possible – and what lies within. Through these connections we witness the magic of empowering children to learn, grow, thrive and eventually contribute to the health, strength and vibrancy of their communities,” said Scott.
“This year in particular with COVID, we have actually seen demand for our programs increase in some areas. We know the work we’ve done to connect kids to mental health, healing and growth through land-based activities has laid a strong foundation, but that the impact on mental health for marginalized and vulnerable communities has been particularly devastating this year. This led us to apply for the Grant in order to bolster support in areas needed most, and we’ve seen great uptake.”
— Beckie Scott (@BeckieScott4) November 5, 2020
In addition to her work with Spirit North, Scott can be seen contributing to CBC Sports Winter Olympic coverage. She holds honorary Doctorates of Laws from the University of Alberta and University of British Columbia. In 2018, Scott was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. She has also been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2007), the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame (2010) and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (2012) but is still discovering new passion for sport.
“When I was competing as an athlete, I really had tunnel-vision and was so focused on a career in sport that I didn’t necessarily appreciate all the incredible benefits and value it brings to society as a whole. Now, as a parent, as someone leading a sport for development organization and just as a regular member of my own community, I see and live daily the full spectrum of benefits and value that sport brings to society. I have been part of the sport community on so many different levels and would say that I am probably more grateful for sport now than at any other phase of my life.”
Follow Beckie’s journey: