Tanya Quesnel: A three-time Games participant
by Randy Pascal
Most athletes would consider it an absolute thrill to be able to participate, just once, in the Canada Games, be it of the “Winter” or “Summer”
variety. Because of the limited age bracket in which the various sports are generally squeezed, most elite talents will age out prior to ever having a
chance to repeat the experience.
Sudbury para nordic skier Tanya Quesnel, by contrast, is currently in Alberta, attending her third set of Games. “I'm really grateful that
Cross Country Ontario continues to believe in me throughout my journey with education and other things,” she said recently.
And what a journey it has become.
Now 22 years old and completing her fourth year within the Social Work program at Laurentian University, Quesnel first garnered local
attention as a mainstay at a variety of high school events over the course of the four years she spent as a member of the Sacré Coeur Griffons.
Provided with the steady guidance of coach Patti Kitler, Quesnel would continue to climb the ranks within the para nordic community, enjoying the
opportunity to participate in upper level events, both across Ontario, as well as from coast to coast.
Then came the reality of post-secondary studies.
“My last year of high school was my best year,” she recalled. “I was in the best shape of my life, and my results showed it. After I graduated (high
school), I wanted to, as much as I could, keep going with skiing. I had seen the benefits that it had on my health and overall how I felt.”
“That proved challenging once I started university, with all of the assignments and stuff,” continued Quesnel. “I have a skier at home and I got a
treadmill for my birthday one year, so when I am doing too much homework, I head down to do some treadmill.”
Though still excited about her upcoming trek westward, the fascinating young woman who is eyeing a possible continuation of her studies via a Masters
program knows that the reward for her three-peat at the Games might not lie with a podium finish.
“My fitness level is definitely not where it was,” she said. “I don't have the time (to train as much), but I think I also lost a bit of the motivation,
because the results aren't there, and that's kind of discouraging.” It's also a big part of the reason why this most recent inclusion as part of the Team
Ontario roster might be just that much more special.
“The Canada Games is a whole other caliber in itself,” she said. “The atmosphere is fantastic. Everybody is cheering each other on, you have all of the
provinces. It's just amazing. It's a mini Paralympics, really. You have your Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, the Ontario team cheer.”
It's not just her relative fitness that renders this young adult a much different version of the athlete that first attended Canada Winter Games in
2011. She speaks with the wisdom of her experiences and the perspective of someone with the maturity to not take any of this for granted.
“I think that I approach it differently now,” said Quesnel. “I've skied for a long time and I'm aware more of how my body works when I am skiing. You
always keep learning. It's like everything else in life, you never stop learning. You learn something from everyone that you meet.”
Case in point, most certainly, has been her long-time coach. “Patti's heart is in the right spot and she really believes in what she does,” explained
Quesnel. “Throughout the years, she has been there for me, not only encouraging me in sports, but supporting me in my personal goals as well, my education,
supporting me when I am having meltdowns with my assignments.”
Moving forward, more questions remain than answers for the local athlete. “I don't know if I will necessarily keep racing, but I do see skiing in my
life, long-term, at least recreationally. I would like to do the racing for a while, still, but well see where things go.”
And regardless of where things go, Quesnel will be thankful for where she has been. “I just enjoy being outside and the nature of skiing, especially
when you go to places like Canmore, and you see the beautiful mountains.”
Results Update: Quesnel would claim three silver medals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, placing second in the 800m sprint, as well as both the
2.5 kms and 5 kms races.