North Strong Stories - Kasandra Bradette, Speed Skating

Accolades: ISU World Championships: 2017 – 5th (3000m relay); 2016 – BRONZE (1000m), SILVER (3000m relay), 5th (500m), 14th (1500m)

Kasandra is no stranger to the uphill battle most athletes face in Canada. From injuries to funding issues, balancing training and the demands of the real world, being a high performance athlete in Canada – especially a woman – can be incredibly difficult. Kasandra describes her journey to the Olympic stage as a roller coaster, and as North Strong’s newest sponsored athlete, we’re excited to share her story!

Describe your journey through speed skating. How did you get involved? How did you get where you are today?

My journey has been a roller coaster. I started short track speed skating when I was 11 – my Dad wanted to find a way for me to burn off energy (which I had a lot of) and he wanted to find a way to occupy me. I originally wanted to play hockey, but after my dad watched Marie-Ève Drolet win gold at the 2000 World Junior Championships, he decided to enroll me in speed skating. The first time I stepped into my long blades, I fell in love with the sport. The first few years were just pure joy; it was all about having fun, going to the track and winning races. When I turned 15, I started to become injury prone; I lived and competed in rural Quebec, and it was difficult for us to be able to get the proper equipment. I was, and always have been, persistent and determined and I am relentless in reaching my goals. I fought through multiple injuries, and eventually started receiving national team attention.

After moving to Montreal to train, I continued to be plagued by injuries; back problems, concussions, and even a broken ankle. In 2011 I was invited to train with the National Team which was a huge deal for me. At that time, I didn’t have any funding and my parents were paying for my training out of pocket. It’s a very expensive sport, surprisingly, and funding isn’t easy to come by. After having to sit out the 2012/2013 season due to another injury, I got back on the ice in 2013 and just missed making the national team. This was a low for me; I was so disappointed. Without any access to funding at this time, I almost quit the sport; I didn’t have enough money to make a living. My parents and coach convinced me to keep pushing. Eventually, I made the national team and am finally realizing my dream of competing for Canada at the Winter Olympics.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being a high performance athlete in Canada?

The biggest challenge is for sure the money. I can pay my rent, but I can’t save anything. I can’t prepare for my career after speed skating. That’s something I’m always stressing about. Speed skating is expensive, and it’s a struggle to pay for my equipment. I need at least 3 pairs of blades, which are $500 each, and a pair of boots which are $3,000. And that’s just the basics; professional costs are huge, such as psychologists, osteopath, physiotherapists. But what I fear most is what comes after skating, and how do I prepare for my next career.

What are you most excited about for your first Olympics?

I’m excited to be able to live this experience with my boyfriend (fellow speed skater Samuel Girard). I had never imagined this would be possible; sharing the same passion, same experience, and to be surrounded with people who are living the same thing as you. When you’re meeting people who experience the same hardships and same joys as you, it’s a pretty special moment. The experience itself is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see and meet all of the athletes, and to be able to compete in front of my friends and family who are joining us there.

Best of luck Kasandra! We can’t wait to cheer you on!