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How I Got There from Here! The Renée Steenge Story

Peace. This is how Renée Steenge describes the way that short track makes her feel. “I guess maybe when you’re in a certain mindset your mind slows down, but you’re not really focused on that. You are focused on your body and how it’s moving. It’s peaceful,” says Renee.

For those of us watching the fast-paced, thrilling sport of short track, peaceful might be the last way to describe the excitement on the ice.

We can all agree that Canada’s Short Track team is enriched with Steenge’s talent as evidenced by the addition of her international medals in the Women’s Team discipline this season.

As a young child, Renée got her start at the Brampton Skating Club at about 8 or 9 years old where she progressed through the levels starting at beginners’. As she improved, she eventually augmented her time on the ice at the Toronto Speed Skating Club, where she turned for extra training.

Why short track? “I always liked the feeling of gliding. Once I felt it, I wanted to keep getting it and keep training. I loved hearing the sounds from the ice and the rhythm of skating.” Renée was a child who loved sports and dipped her toe into many of them. Sport is by its very definition filled with intensity and yet the ‘peaceful moments’ she experiences in speed skating are what sets it apart for her.

Copyright Speed Skating Canada 2022

Renée is thoughtful in the three words she uses to describe Short Track: Intense. Fast. Aggressive.

Intense. It is also a word that can be used to describe Renée’s trek from short track ‘keener’ to legit short track star. The journey from Brampton to National Team took about 11 years and has not been without its challenges. This is a young woman who is charting her own path. She moved to Montreal for training after graduating from high school and where she is also studying engineering at McGill University.

It was during high school that Renée spent a couple of summers at The Regional Training Centre in Montreal where she relocated to start her training in earnest. After about a year, she qualified for the National Development Team. In 2019, she moved to Calgary where she stayed until being invited back to Montreal as a training partner for the NextGen Team for 18 months. She made the World Cup team in October 2022 and there has been no looking back since then.

It was Renée’s choice to interrupt her trajectory and move to Calgary which carried lessons with it. As far as comeback lessons in Montreal are concerned, for Renée it was mostly consistency and slowly working her way back up. Renée calls it “just being in the moment taking it one step at a time.”

As is the case with many athletes, Renée has coped with the yin and yang of competing mindsets; both possible and impossible. “I doubted my ability to come back, and I doubted I could make it to the World Cup or National team levels, but it came back to more of an intrinsic feeling of gliding on the ice and being at peace. Obviously, I hadn’t reached my full potential. You’re good you can do more, and you have more to offer.” When the door opened for possibilities, Renée was able to walk through it.

That potential was clear in the medals and accolades Renée has earned since the Fall of 2022 including one of her favourite racing experiences to date. “The 3000m Relay Women’s Final in Montreal at my first World Cup in October 2022. It was on home ice; I was feeling good on my blades, and I thought we had a strong team where I was the anchor. I found out on the morning of the race that I would be one of the four skaters to be chosen to be part of the team where we skated to a silver medal.” Thrilling.

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Renée is considered in her thoughts about the racing knowledge she is acquiring: “You’re always learning more and part of it is understanding the timing of races, how it works and when to make your move. I am getting better at racing. Not perfect but making progress.”

Renée is grateful for the assistance that she has received along the way from the many people at the different clubs that supported her, the coaches at Brampton and Toronto Speed Skating clubs in Ontario to her teammates and coaches in Calgary and the coaches and athletes in Salt Lake City, where she has also spent time.

Coming from Ontario has had many benefits including the structure of the competitions and competing at Ontario Winter Games with coaches who genuinely loved the sport, among other experiences.

What would Renée advise her younger self or any other younger skater? “Enjoy what you’re doing and don’t get too caught up in the small things. Just remember that skating and being on the ice is going to make you better. “

Renée’s three words to describe herself reflect her overall approach to her life and her skating: Eccentric. Calm. Athletic.

“I always knew I could do it but didn’t know I would get here in this way.” Stay tuned. The Renée Steenge story is just beginning.

Written by Pj Kwong

Copyright Speed Skating Canada 2022


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