Nov. 29, 2018
UCalgary alum inducted into Olympic Oval Hall of Champions
World Cup Short Track in Calgary Nov. 2 to 4 wrapped up with many highs for the Canadian team, including the Oval’s own Alison Desmarais completing her World Cup debut. One of only two Western Canadians to qualify for the Canadian World Cup team, Desmarais delighted the crowd all weekend and walked away with her first-ever World Cup medal.
The Olympic Oval has a history of producing, training and being home to elite long-track and short-track athletes. One such athlete, Jessica Gregg, BKin’14, BEd’17, was honoured at the World Cup event with her induction into the Olympic Oval Hall of Champions.
Hailing from Edmonton, Jessica Gregg is an Oval-grown athlete with a family history in sport. Her mother Kathy competed as an Olympic long-track speedskater, while her father Randy was a hockey player who is a two-time Olympian. Her older brother Jamie was a member of the long-track national team and is also a two-time Olympian.
“The Oval is a special place; my mom was pregnant with me in the '88 Olympics here, and growing up it was always a treat to come here to skate instead of being outside in the cold back in Edmonton,” says Gregg. “Growing up in Alberta, it was always special to come here and race against my friends, and then later getting to race World Cups here both on short-track and long-track. The Oval is definitely an iconic part of my athletic career and always will be.
“In 2006, I was so excited to move here and train. I moved with Jamie and it was kind of this special moment where we were able to both be here and train with all these teammates from around Western Canada. It was four years before the Olympics so we geared up for Vancouver, and I was lucky enough to make that team, so it was kind of the dream where I had just moved, got to train on the fastest ice in the world, and got to learn how to really skate short-track.”
Gregg made her Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010. She was part of the silver-medal-winning 3000m relay squad in Vancouver alongside Tania Vicent, who was also honoured over the weekend. Gregg also came close to standing on the podium by herself when she finished fourth in the 500m.
“My first games were Tania's fourth, so she was a veteran and a role model for all of us. She was such an amazing skater for so many years. We all looked up to her, hoping to have long careers ourselves,” says Gregg. “It's special to have her also being honoured this weekend, kind of spotlight short-track here at the Oval.”
In 2014, Gregg would become a two-time Olympian as an alternate for the relay team. Gregg would then switch from short-track to long-track, where she immediately claimed three silver medals in the 500m and the 1000m at the 2015 Canadian Single Distance Championships while qualifying for the World Championships.
Over her career she also amassed five World Championship short-track medals including an individual bronze medal in the 500m at the 2009 World Championships. On the World Cup Short Track circuit, she earned four gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals, as well as one silver and one bronze medal at the World Team Championships.
Gregg’s and Vicent’s banners will join fellow Canadian short-track Olympic medallists Alanna Kraus and Derek Campbell, as well as long-track Olympic medallists Susan Auch, Kevin Crockett, Kristina Groves, Clara Hughes, Cindy Klassen, Catriona Le May Doan and Jeremy Wotherspoon.
“I looked up to all those skaters who have been honoured so it's kind of surreal now that I will have my picture up there hanging next to them,” says Gregg. “It brings back a lot of great memories when I come back here — it always feels like home.”
The Hall of Champions is a celebration of Canadian speedskating athletes who have trained at the Olympic Oval in both long-track and short-track skating. The honour is bestowed on those who are Olympic medallists and are now retired from the sport.