Two sisters from East St. Paul recently represented Manitoba on the slopes at the Canada Winter Games.
Sophia, 15, and Jocelyn Jekat, 17, are both students at River East Collegiate. As kids, they became members of the Winnipeg Alpine Racers Ski Racing Club and the later qualified for the Manitoba alpine ski team.
“My whole family either knows how to ski or snowboard, so my parents wanted (us) to learn,” Jocelyn, who started skiing at age six, said. “Signing up for the club was a lot cheaper than getting lessons at Spring Hill.”
The sisters both fell in love with the sport, both the speed of it and the community around it.
“The team, all the coaches, athletes, and parents are super great,” Jocelyn, who is graduating from REC in the spring, said. “It really is like a big family.”
“I really like that I’m able to travel to as many places as I have,” added Sophia, who is in Grade 10.
“I don’t think any other sports would do that. I’m a really social person. I love meeting new people and having those experiences. I also like going fast.”
Indeed, skiing has taken the Jekats across North America and as far afield as Switzerland for training and competition.
“It does take a lot of time,” Jocelyn admitted, noting the team travels to Asessippi near Inglis, Man., almost every weekend during the winter to either train or compete, not to mention off-season training.
“It can be hard. But looking back, I’m so glad and lucky to get to be a part of it.”
“The path to making the team and staying competitive for both of them has been intense,” said Brent Harvey, who has coached the Jekat sisters over the years.
“Summer at the gym and track, skiing in the summer on glaciers in Switzerland, mountain training in the fall and attending the race series here in Manitoba and in other provinces and states. The hard work and dedication that both sisters have is amazing and it is all paying off.”
While neither Jekat hit the podium at the Canada Games, both were thrilled to compete at the Games, especially in the Super G and ski-cross events, in which neither had previously competed. Jocelyn finished the Super G with a time of 0:49.16, while Sophia was disqualified. In the ski-cross, Sophia finished 33rd while Jocelyn finished 47th.
“Ski-cross was a lot of fun,” Sophia said. “I didn’t do well, but having the competition right there beside you, it’s such a different type of race that we don’t get to do.”
“I wish we had a place we could practice that,” Jocelyn added.
In the slalom race, Jocelyn finished with a time of 1:45.24, while Sophia finished with 1:48.19. In the grand slalom, Sophia finished with a total time of 2:04.35, while Jocelyn fell during her first run and was disqualified.
“There are some things I would have liked to do better,” Jocelyn said.
“Racing there is a lot different than racing at Asessippi. So that was a challenge. But I had a really good time.”
“I could have pushed myself more, but I had a lot of fun … so I was happy with that,” Sophia said.
With the Canada Games behind them, the Jekats will finish up the Manitoba Cup race series, with a few possibilities for some spring competition out west yet to be confirmed. Looking back on the experience of representing Manitoba at the Games, the sisters are both grateful for the opportunity.
“It was an amazing experience,” Jocelyn said.
“Our coaches were all so nice and our mission staff, too. Thank you to coaches at home who weren’t able to come out to Canada Games, but they were the people who brought (us) there.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Sophia added.
“I always love competing with my sister. It’s also fun because she’s older than me, I have someone to look up to and motivate myself.”
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time.
Email him at email@example.com
Call him at 204-697-7112