Granville Ferry’s Brenda MacDonald, a 20-year-old para-alpine skier, picked up Nova Scotia’s fourth medal at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alberta Tuesday with a silver in giant slalom.
MacDonald placed second to Alberta’s Tess Beasant in two runs that saw the top skiers less than two seconds apart both times.
“I feel amazing. It’s quite an honour and quite exciting to have won silver,” she said in a phone interview. “It was actually tough competition, tough course. There’s no real words to say how one could feel. I’m very happy and content.”
She had a chance to inspect the course beforehand and was able to make one run before competition.
“Yesterday the weather was at -25C, -28C with a wind chill of -33C,” she said. “So it was quite cold.”
But she likes to ski when the mercury is that low because the snow stays harder and that’s better to race on when you have sharp edges.
“If it’s way too soft the skis can just grab and pull you off the course, which is more likely to happen as the day goes on and the run gets more run by other skiers,” she said.
MacDonald competed at the Canada Games in 2015 and came away with a fourth place finish. This time, winning a medal, she said it meant she was prepared and her training paid off.
“Training is always a big one. Everybody says train hard, work hard, but one of the main ones I’ve learned is ‘train as you race and race as you train,’” she said. “Even if you’re just going to do a free run, focus on skills that you’re developing. Always be focused so when you get to the race you’re not worried about something else because you’ve already trained as you’re going to race.”
Steven MacDonald, Brenda’s father, was the visually impaired skier’s guide down the hill at the Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis.
“It felt great. I don’t think we could have any better team than a father-daughter,” she said. “I think it’s a great team combo as he knows how I can see what I can see so he’s able to call out better terrain for me. And at the same time he knows when to push, because he knows that I can give it more on different areas of the course. Being able to compete with my dad, it’s great. It’s one of the sports that it’s a team sport that doesn’t matter where we are we can always ski.”
She said it’s also a way to keep a bond between her and her father.
“That really shows that I have the support from home when I have an amazing dad and an amazing mom who come to the hill and my dad just skis and puts up with me,” she said.
“It’s the most amazing thing just to be on the hill with this young lady,” said Steven MacDonald in an interview by Team Nova Scotia after the silver medal win. “She’s a powerhouse. I can’t believe I had this opportunity to share in this medal with my daughter at the Canada Games and represent Nova Scotia. It’s just an incredible feeling.”
Brenda MacDonald competed in the slalom Feb. 27 with a good first run that put her in first spot. But her second run went long, putting her in fourth spot and one away from a second medal. Two racers, including Beasant, didn’t finish, and a third was disqualified.
Brenda MacDonald has skied at Ski Martock, Ski Wentworth, and now at college in Nelson, BC, with the Whitewater Ski Team.
She’s earned gold at both the 2016 and 2017 Canadian and American Nationals, and was the 2016 Alpine Ski Nova Scotia Female Athlete of the Year. She’s also received her Silver Duke of Edenburgh Award, was 2018 Queen Annapolis Royal, and is a Rick Hansen Ambassador.
MacDonald said her role models are Brian McKeever, Canada's most decorated winter paralympian, and Helen Keller.