IT’S A MELLOW May morning in the high desert of central Oregon and Beckie Scott, fresh from skiing the last of the spring snow, has left her incessantly ringing telephone to the answering machine. Carrying a bathtub-sized mug of herbal tea to the patio of the home she shares with long-time boyfriend and U.S. Olympian Justin Wadsworth, Scott, 27, reflects on her changing fortune.
Behind her now is the relative obscurity that was the lot of a Canadian cross-country skier, even after a decade on the national team and the World Cup circuit. Scott achieved the near impossible at the Salt Lake City Winter Games, winning Canada’s first ever Nordic Olympic medal, a bronze —at the time—in the combined pursuit.
The Olympics swept Scott into an international intrigue when her controversial claim that blood doping plagued her sport turned out to be true. Scott skied the race of her life in Utah, but now, three months later, she calmly sips her tea still waiting for the final result. The two Russians who finished ahead of her are appealing suspensions for blood boosting. If their disqualifications hold, Scott is likely to become a belated silver or even gold medallist.
“It really has changed my life,” she says of her new higher profile. “It definitely took me awhile to get used to it.” Most of the Olympic experience was wonderful, Scott says. She treasured sharing the moment with Wadsworth, a member of the U.S. cross-country team who calls her medal a breakthrough for the sport in North America. Scott smiles, recalling their years of mutual training and encourage-
ment. “It wasn’t really my medal,” she says. “It was our medal.”
Her parents were at the finish line, too, and the celebration reached back to hometown Vermilion, Alta. In April, most of the community’s 4,400 residents turned out for Beckie Scott Day. There was a parade. A street was named for her. She was given a gold medal. “I was overwhelmed by it all,” she says.
It was Jan and Walter Scott who introduced cross-country skiing to Vermilion 25 years ago, literally helping blaze the first trails. Their only child put on skis before age four. “Beckie, of course, had no choice,” says Jan. As Beckie hit her teens, her mother spotted the “mental toughness” so essential to her success. “She can go beyond that point of pain,” Jan says, “and still push.”
That grit isn’t as immediately obvious as her incandescent smile, but she’s shown it both on the trail and off. Her criticism during the Games of lax drug controls earned a public rebuke from Dick Pound, the Canadian head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. “She’s way out of line,” he snapped at the time. Says Scott: “I didn’t regret it, because I knew I was right.”
Scott and Wadsworth, 33, are planning another season on the World Cup circuit, where they met five years ago. Scott says she’ll likely race two more years before deciding on another Olympics, or an eventual return, with Wadsworth, to Canada.
Like her parents, she’s cut a trail others can follow. There’s a place on the podium for those who race clean—for those not worried about the colour of the medal, but the quality of the victory. KEN MACQUEEN
1 didn’t regret what I said, because I knew I was right.’
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