Fortino beginning new medal hunt
When great athletes start to get a few too many rings around the trunk and the game begins to pass them by, they step aside for the next generation of players and prepare for the inevitable honours. Maybe their number is retired. Possibly their name is hung on a wall. Perhaps they become an ambassador for their old team.
Point is, however they’re recognized it is generally a nod to the past.
So, when Laura Fortino was told her Team Canada sweater was about to be hung on the wall of her old high school next week, she started wondering if a message was subtly being sent about her age.
“I know, right?” the gold-medal-winning defenceman chuckles. “It’s making me feel old.”
She’s not. She’s just 26 today — and probably not even at her athletic peak. It’s reasonable to expect she’ll play in another two or three Olympics before she’s done. Likely win a few more medals and author more memorable moments.
Yet on Wednesday during Laura Fortino Appreciation Day, Bishop Tonnos Secondary will unveil a display with her sweater, a signed puck, a hockey card and some stuff from the Olympics. A beautiful honour for someone who’s already done a lot in the game.
Don’t misunderstand, she is truly appreciative. Blown away, in fact. Just very, very pleasantly surprised. Because she sure wasn’t expecting this. Truth is, the Ancaster native hasn’t been thinking of much other than training and hockey these days. The PyeongChang Games are nine months away yet she’s already fully immersed in preparation.
Each day she’s at Mac working out. Late next week she leaves for boot camp in New Brunswick. A month of intense training that she says pushes players like they’ve never been pushed. In August she moves to Calgary with the team to begin the real work toward the Games.
It’s a grind. The one thing working for her? She’s no longer trying to make the team. She’s a mainstay, now. Instead she’s preparing for success. There’s a big difference. “I feel like my role has changed in a way.” Prior to Sochi, she was a newcomer looking for ice time. Today she’s a veteran of the team and one of the backbones of the blue-line. Rather than seeking out the established players for advice, she’s now the one being sought out by, as she describes them, the “young girls.”
Which is kind of hilarious considering she’s not exactly an artifact herself.
“OK,” she laughs. “The new girls.”
Either way, this new position she’s in is huge. For the past three years she’s taken her gold medal everywhere and shared it with hundreds and thousands of people. They’ve held it and worn it and taken photos with it and even cried with it. She’s been blown away by the response. It was with her at an event as recently as last weekend.
“Being able to call yourself an Olympic gold medallist is such an honour. It’s very, very rare.”
Seeing how profound an impact it has had and remembering how deeply she felt the joy of winning it, she desperately wants another one. If she can assist on the winning goal in overtime again and help make Canada burst into an explosion of joy in the process, all the better. But however it happens, she wants to double her collection.
Which raises a key question. Will the display at BT have a door on it so it can be opened? Because if things go according to plan, there will be other big moments to celebrate in her still-young career. And more to show off. She doesn’t know. But she hopes it’ll need one.
“I feel,” Fortino says, “I have so much more to accomplish.”
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Laura Fortino, right, is a veteran defenceman with the Canadian women’s Olympic gold medal-winning team. Wednesday is her day at Bishop Tonnos.
Laura Fortino takes her gold medal everywhere and has let thousands of people touch it, feel it and wear it. Now she’s playing for another one.