The Rocky Journey of a Champion - Learn to Skate

The Rocky Journey of a Champion

Destined to be a champion, Linda Wright’s passion and talent for Canada’s pastime would lead to sharing a podium with Dorothy Hamill, receiving therapy with the Toronto Maple Leafs and being forever bonded with one of the greatest hockey superstars of all time – Bobby Orr.

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club Coach

Linda Wright

One of four children, Linda was introduced to skating by her mother’s cousin, Toby Renelt. As a coach with the East York Figure Skating Club, Toby saw Linda’s potential and insisted she give skating a try. Immediately, this shy seven year old, began to develop confidence as she quickly passed test after test.

By the summer of 1968, Linda had achieved level five in figures and competed in the Central Ontario Summer Competition, placing second behind Dorothy Hamill. Dorothy went on to become a three-time United States National Champion (1974–1976), win gold at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria and earned the World Championship title in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Figures are no longer in the Skate Canada Program, but were a huge part of skating and took a lot of time and concentration.” – Linda

By 1970, Linda passed her seventh figure test and senior silver dances, while her training regimen expanded to skating five days a week, year-round. Linda’s commitment and perseverance enabled her to compete and win the Central Ontario Sectionals Championship as a junior. Standing on top of the podium, her dream of being a top skater was becoming reality. Coaches, skaters and spectators were beginning to take notice of this rising Canadian star.

“I focused on working hard to continue to raise my performance. I didn’t realize at the time, how lucky I was to compete against the best skaters in the world.” – Linda

Linda Wright Junior Eastern Figure Skating Champion

Linda Wright Junior Eastern Figure Skating Champion

To understand just how good of a skater Linda was becoming, you have to understand the quality of skaters in the national stream at that time, which both challenged and inspired her. The 1970’s produced an elite core including, previously mentioned Dorothy Hamill, Karen Diane Magnussen, Lynn Nightingale and Toller Cranston to name just a few. Magnussen went on to compete and win silver in the 1972 Olympics and became the 1973 World champion. Magnussen was also recognized as Canada’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1971 and 1972, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1973. Lynn Nightingale, four-time Canadian national champion (1974-1977), represented Canada at the 1976 Winter Olympics, where she placed 9th. Toller Cranston, one of Linda’s favourite skaters, who just recently passed away, won the 1971–1976 Canadian national championships, the 1974 World bronze medal and the 1976 Olympic bronze medal. An artist both on and off the ice, Cranston is credited with raising men’s figure skating to new heights.

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club

From the familiar feel of skates properly tightened around the feet, to being the first to etch the glass-like surface left behind a Zamboni, enthusiasts like Linda, develop an obsessive love affair with skating. While the romanticism is perpetuated by skaters defying the laws of nature, and soaring eloquently across the surface of the ice, the truth is, that figure skating can take its toll. Skating artistry is not achieved without numerous attempts and failure of nearly impossible jumps, which too often culminate with a devastating fall onto the ice. Without hesitation, these athletes get back up, a little weaker from the newly acquired bruise, and attempt the jump again. The demand on their body is incomprehensible as they push themselves to the limits to achieve the most challenging, score-rewarding, elements.

Ready to build on her recent success, Linda stepped onto the ice at a summer competition to warm up. She felt confident as her skates carved perfect arcs and her unwavering spins caught the attention of bystanders. Those present recognized Linda as the skater to beat.

Then, unexpectedly, while rotating in the air executing a double Lutz, Linda felt a sharp pain surge from her leg through every nerve in her body. Although she landed on her feet, she had to be helped off the ice by one of the judges. Her chance to compete and win this event was over.

Linda was rushed to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had torn her hamstring muscle ligaments. This was a devastating freak injury. In an effort to do everything possible to help Linda return to the ice, and as a testament to the status she had achieved, a team of distinguished professionals was assembled that included the Toronto Maple Leaf’s head surgeon.

After numerous tests, and thorough assessments, it was confirmed that surgery was necessary. The Toronto Maple Leaf’s head surgeon performed the operation himself. Linda was hospitalized for two months and received physical therapy, alongside Toronto Maple Leaf players, every day for two years. During this time, Linda had to relearn how to walk, while the ability to ever skate again was questionable.

Linda eventually returned to the ice, three years after her surgery. In a short time, she successfully

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club

completed her gold tests in figures and free skate. Determined to also return to competition, Linda, trained hard and won the Eastern Championships, this time as a senior. Winning was a dream come true and qualified her to advance to the Canadian Championships. As a rookie, attending her very first national competition, Linda achieved an impressive 4th place. Even more remarkable when you consider Linda was struggling to walk a year prior.

“It was personally satisfying to have a strong finish to my skating career, completing both my gold tests, while also competing at Canadian championships. Unfortunately it was too much too soon after such a major injury.” – Linda

While not exactly how she wanted her name to be recorded for posterity, Linda’s injury was chronicled in the medical journals alongside Bobby Orr’s collar bone injury. Orr fractured his collar bone, and experienced a shoulder separation, during the infamous body check he received from Frank Mahovlich. Studies of Linda’s double Lutz injury directly contributed to the advancement of sports medicine and treatment for athletes participating in all sports.

Since stepping down as a competitor, Linda turned her attention to coaching. The Pickering Skating Club is fortunate to have Linda as a member of its coaching team. Who better to train the next generation of skating stars than a champion who knows what it takes to compete at the highest levels. Greeting everyone with a smile, and embracing a strong belief in team, you can count on Linda to provide unconditional support to all skaters and her fellow coaches.

Linda Wright Pickering Skating Club

“I am truly blessed to have competed with some truly remarkable competitors and now be able to share my knowledge and experience with the young skaters of today and share my sport with the members of the Pickering Figure Skating Club.” – Linda