When the 2014 Olympic Winter Games start, Shae-Lynn Bourne will be curled up in front of her television, watching as many events as she can.
“It’s more dramatic on television than it is in real life,” she insists.
She knows what she’s talking about. One of Canada’s most celebrated athletes, Bourne — along with her former figure skating partner, Victor Kraatz — are 10-time Canadian National Dance Champions and 3-time Olympians. The first North American dance team to win the World Figure Skating Championships, they hold six medals in total from the annual international competition.
Bourne has also competed for three seasons on the popular CBC reality show, Battle of the Blades.
There’s more, just in case that list wasn’t lengthy enough. Bourne was also awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for speaking out about unfair judging practices in figure skating, and she has also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her achievements and contribution to Canada.
Impressive, especially considering she’s only 38.
Now she works as a coach and choreographer, juggling a hectic life as the working mother of a 19-month-old toddler.
“We’re both self-employed, so we don’t have babysitters,” she says. “We’re full-time parents, and the two of us take turns so we can get some work done throughout the day.”
There’s plenty of kid time that way, too. Like so many children, her son loves music, dancing, toy cars, and books. And he pays attention to everything his mom and dad do.
“I’m always stretching or dancing to music at home, and he just watches and pays attention to everything,” she says. “It’s really funny to see how he picks up and learns from everything that we’re doing.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, given his mom’s career, her young son already has a pair of hockey skates, which Bourne lets him wear in the house, “so he can get his balance on the blades. I hang onto him while he walks,” she says.
But, she says, she won’t be one of those parents who insists her child begin skating as a toddler. “I know a lot of kids start when they are two or three, but I can’t imagine putting him on the ice until he’s a bit more coordinated, a little more developed,” she says. “I don’t think there’s a rush.”
Born in Chatham, Ont., she was 7 when she began figure skating, following in the footsteps of her older brother. “I just did what my brother did,” she says with a laugh. “My brother is such a good skater. I remember being amazed by him and thinking he’d be a world champion.”
Bourne, on the other hand, is modest when she talks about how she achieved her own successes.
“I was a very good worker. I was very disciplined when I was little, and I listened. I tried very hard to do whatever I was asked to do,” she says. “I wanted to work hard, and eventually it turned into a different feeling, a freedom.”
And an education, too. “Skating was really my university in a way,” she says. “I learned so much from it.”
The importance of eating healthy and staying in good shape, for instance. She recalls a time when she was competing a lot — and she was sick a lot, too.
“I realized how important it is, how we take care of our bodies and what we put into our bodies,” she says. “Some people take better care of their cars than their bodies, but nothing’s more important than your own vehicle.”
She laughs at the comparison, as she continues to talk about how sport has taught her so much about herself and the world.
“It really opens your mind to different cultures and different ways of living,” she says.
“I wouldn’t be the way I am if I didn’t have that experience.”
Images of Shae-Lynn Bourne © Bohdan Turok