Freestyle aerialist Deidra Dionne is expected to announce her retirement on Friday and it must have been a heart-wrenching decision for the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist.
It’s also a decision she must have just reached recently. Less than two weeks ago, Dionne sent out an update on her training and talked about how she was looking forward to an upcoming fitness camp for the team and that it was “only 149 days until Vancouver hosts the world.”
In an interview we did about a month ago, the Red Deer, Alta., native acknowledged the continuing struggle it’s been to come back from a broken neck suffered in the summer of 2005. She was dropped to the development team for this season because of poor results last year, but said she was fully committed to seeing it through.
“I do it for myself and so I enjoy that challenge,” she said. “It’s tough when the results aren’t there like last year because then you start to question that process. But in the end, I know have faith in myself when it does matter. Sometimes I need more stress than other people to make myself kind of perform.
“It’s a good stress, it’s a stress I know I can control. But it is definitely a heightened stress. It makes those days where you’re feeling a little bit lazy, it makes those days go away. … Anytime things have been really tough for me, that’s when I’ve always excelled. I must just thrive on making very difficult for myself.”
Dionne did say there were times when she wondered if her heart was still in it.
“Everyone has bad days,” she said. “And I’m in a sport where the bad days sometimes have worse consequences than other sports. But when I go home at night and I think about it, I seriously cherish those bad days because I love getting up the next morning and turning that bad day into a good day. That’s something that I still absolutely love to do.
“And I would take a bad day of jumping over a day of not jumping. Honestly, I love being up there and I love the process of what my day involves. I still have a desire to be part of the Olympics in Vancouver and I’m working as hard as I can to make it happen.”
The fear factor that is a part of her sport was definitely still holding her back a bit, especially right at the point of takeoff.
“I guess aerials is a bit unique in the sense that it’s that last little bit of commitment where you are putting yourself on the line and saying ‘Okay, here it goes. This is it,’” said Dionne. “If the fear is there, then that commitment isn’t there 100 per cent and you hold back just a tiny little bit hoping your’re doing yourself a favour, helping yourself in some way, but in reality you’re actually hurting yourself. … It’s a constant battle to convince yourself that what seems like a risk is actually putting yourself in the position to be successful.”
Maybe, she just couldn’t convince herself of that anymore.
There’s no shame in that. Dionne is an intelligent athlete who’s kept up her schooling and been involved in many different ways, as an ambassador for Right To Play, Special Olympics and Children's Services Centre as well as a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s athlete commission.
She’ll continue to make important contributions to sport even if she’s not on the field of play.