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Winnipeg's Schussler to skate in four events in Sochi, hopes to return with at least one medal

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Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler was the lone Manitoban named to the Canadian long-track speedskating squad that will compete at the Sochi Olympics.

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler was the lone Manitoban named to the Canadian long-track speedskating squad that will compete at the Sochi Olympics.

Some folks want Louis Vuitton luggage. Others want to haul around heavy metals. Count Brittany Schussler among the latter.

"You're not going to find anyone going to Sochi that doesn't want their luggage filled with medals coming home," said the 28-year-old Winnipegger, who was named to Canada's long track speedskating team Tuesday. "I think I have a realistic shot at winning a medal. I'm not a lock by any stretch. It's what I aspire to and I will need amazing circumstances. But I can skate with the best girls in the world and if I perform at my best, I think the result could be a positive for Canada and myself."

Twice Schussler has been to the Olymics and returned empty-handed. In Turin, she was an alternate and did not skate; in Vancouver she competed but was kept off the podium.

Heading into Vancouver, Schussler says she was too focused on the end result and not the act of racing.

"I was so focused on winning a medal in Vancouver and it didn't happen and I left really disappointed," said Schussler.

"Going into Sochi, I want to focus on leaving knowing that I had the races I want to have at the Olympics. If that doesn't mean a medal, that's sad. But it would be more disappointing to leave knowing I didn't have the races I wanted to have and didn't deliver the performance I could have.

"I want to cross the finish line knowing I've shown what I'm made of and having done myself proud for the 21 years of training I've put into this moment."

Manitobans dominated Canadian speedskating during the reign of Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen but Schussler was the only Manitoba named to the squad on Tuesday.

Hopefuls Stefan Waples, Tyler Derraugh and Shannon Rempel were not named to the team.

Schussler, along with Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., will skate in four Olympic races -- the most of any Canadian. Schussler will race the 3,000 metres, 1,500, 1,000 and team pursuit.

"I've been skating really well this season," she said. "A medal would be great. I'm going with the intent of skating solid races," said Schussler, who has earned a silver in the team pursuit and a bronze in the 1,500 metres on this season's World Cup circuit. "The competition is stronger than it's ever been. There are 10 or 15 girls that could be on the podium and luckily, I'm one of them. You just have to show up sharp and skate a great race. It's minding your own business and doing what you can do and hoping that can be enough."

Schussler was born and raised in Winnipeg, lived in River Heights until she was 10 and then moved to Charleswood. She's spent the last 11 years training in Calgary but Winnipeg is still home.

"I first skated at River Heights Arena and we lived on Centennial Street until I was in Grade 5," said Schussler. "Calgary is home for me now. But when I talk about home, I'm still talking about Winnipeg. My best friends are still in Winnipeg. I have a lot of family there still. Just last week I went to the hockey game here in Calgary and it was against the Jets. It was my first Jets game since the team came back. I wore a Jets jersey. I definitely identify with Winnipeggers. I'm proud to be from Winnipeg and to call it home."

Every elite athlete has an edge, whether it's genetic or an acquired skill. Schussler says she's built a foundation of technique that sets her apart.

"For me it's attention to detail. Everyone that gets to the Olympics is athletic and has natural ability or talent," said Schussler. "I maybe don't have as much talent as some of the best like Cindy (Klassen). But for me it's doing the little things right. Technically that shows through and I'm quite a strong technical skater. Doing as many of those little things right will hopefully take me from mediocre to elite at these Games."

Klassen and Hughes were huge forces on Team Canada over the last few Olympics and Schussler will be one of the women filling the void created by their absence.

"Speedskating in Canada is a sport where we've had so many leaders and captains. From Cindy to Clara to Susan (Auch) to Catriona (Le May Doan)," said Schussler.

"This Olympic team has a lot more youth and first time Olympians on it and that's great, too. We can still go to Sochi and do amazing. But we don't have the role models we've had in the past."

Schussler's family is trying to raise funds to make the trip to Sochi. Those interested in helping out can go to www.brittanyschussler.com and click on the Schusslers to Sochi icon near the top of the page.

Schussler's mother Norine has assembled a 165-recipe cookbook and proceeds will be used to help with the costs of travelling to Sochi.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

more OLYMPIC COVERAGE D6

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2014 D1

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Updated on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 6:36 AM CST: Changes headline, replaces photo

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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