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Christine Atkins realizes dream with Olympic silver medal

Christine Atkins tending to an injured Canadian player. Photo by Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images.

Fort Macleod’s Christine Atkins earned a silver medal as athletic therapist for the Canadian women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics.

Fort Macleod’s Christine Atkins realized a childhood dream last month with a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The 35-year-old Atkins was an athletic therapist with the Canadian women’s hockey team that was edged by the U.S. in a shootout in the gold medal game.
“It is an incredible honour to be part of an Olympic medal-winning team,” Atkins said. “The excitement and pride to wear your country’s colours on your jacket and to see the Canadian flag being raised at a medal ceremony is something I will never forget.”
Atkins has been involved in sports all her life, playing volleyball, basketball, field hockey, rugby and track and field in school, as well as soccer, baseball and swim club.
While Atkins didn’t reach the Olympics in those sports, her dream continued after she earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary and completed the athletic therapy program at Mount Royal University.
“For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to go to the Olympics,” said Atkins, who is certified through the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association. “Once I started working as an athletic therapist it has been a huge career goal of mine to be an Olympian. I have been very fortunate with the opportunities that I have had the past few years.”
Atkins joined Hockey Canada in 2010, working 60 to 75 days a year with the team at events such as the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, the Four Nations Cup and selection camps.
The year leading up to the Olympics is the only time there is full-time work for an athletic therapist with Hockey Canada.
Atkins took a one-year leave of absence from her full-time job at the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre and the Acute Sport Concussion Clinic at the University of Calgary.
As athletic therapist Atkins is responsible for overseeing athlete health and safety, attending all games, practices, and training sessions and managing any injuries.
Atkins completes clinical treatment until the athlete has returned fully to off-ice training and into play.
“This year I was able to work closely with an outstanding medical team comprised of another athletic therapist, a strength and conditioning coach, a massage therapist, sports physiologist, and a sport medicine doctor,” Atkins said.
Atkins enjoys working with highly motivated and goal-oriented people in an environment that changes daily.
“I get to collaborate with some of the top professionals from across Canada and working with Olympic athletes everyday is pretty inspiring,” Atkins said. “Everyone on the team — staff and players included — work tirelessly to be at the top of their respective roles.”
“The other thing about my job is the relationships that I have made. As a team we spend so much time together on the road and at the rink that they become your second family. It’s comforting to know that every day you have a knowledgeable support group with you every step of the way. And this particular group of people from this past year will always hold a special place in my heart.”
One of the highlights of the year leading up to the Winter Olympics was a six-game series between Canada and the U.S., with three games in each country.
“Our last game was in Edmonton at the new Rogers Place arena and there wasn’t an empty seat,” Atkins recalled. “We won in overtime and the entire building erupted.”
“To take part in helping grow the game of women’s hockey in Canada is something that we hold very highly and it was definitely showcased this season and throughout the Olympics.”
Atkins enjoyed the Olympic experience at PyeongChang, including the opening and closing ceremonies and the flag-raising ceremonies.
“Being able to be part of the Olympic Games on Team Canada was wonderful,” Atkins said.
In south Korea, Atkins happily embraced the role of tourist when she wasn’t at the rink or in the clinic.
“The cities of PyeongChang, Gangneung, Seoul and Incheon did an incredible job of showcasing their cities for all of the world visitors,” Atkins said. “South Korea is a beautiful country with great people, delicious food, and so many historical sites to explore. We were also able to attend some other events to cheer on the rest of team Canada.”
Speaking of cheering, Atkins was delighted with the strong support she received from back home throughout the Winter Olympics.
“The support and encouragement from town was awesome,” Atkins said. “I was getting messages daily from family and friends, classmates I went to school with, from people whose children I coached in swimming 15 years ago. I could hear Fort Macleod cheering loud and clear. Thank you!”
Atkins had her own personal cheering section in the stands at games, as her husband Leigh Courtney and brother Jeremy Atkins were in South Korea for the last half of the Olympics.
Now that the Olympics are over, Atkins will return to the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre and the Acute Sport Concussion Clinic on May 1, as well as her role as athletic therapist with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team.
Atkins is hopeful her experience as a member of an Olympic medal-winning team will inspire young people in Fort Macleod.
“There is a huge world out there that needs to be explored, different cultures to be introduced to, and different perspectives to gain appreciation for,” said Atkins, who plans to stay involved in hockey. “Take advantage of the fact that we are from a community and country that allows us to do those things and never forget where home is.”

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