In an athletic career where she’s accomplished so much, Colette Bourgonje’s recent enshrinement into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is something that the Paralympian truly cherishes.
Bourgonje, who is originally from Porcupine Plain and now lives outside of Prince Albert, was part of the 2021 induction class, which was officially announced on Thursday.
“To be acknowledged by your home province is definitely a honour,” Bourgonje said.
“It’s really cool to be going into the Hall of Fame with people that I know as well. I played hockey with Shannon Miller back in the day and I got the chance to meet Lyndon Rush after the 2020 winter games, so it’s really fun to be in the same class as them.”
Bourgonje was a cross-country runner in high school and competed at a national level before a serious car accident in 1980 left her a paraplegic.
She would then move into wheelchair racing before eventually taking up cross-country skiing.
“As I was trying to figure out what I was going to do to fill that missing void, I really didn’t know what sports were out there,” Bourgonje said. “Having been a runner, I thought wheelchair racing would be the sport for me, but at the end of the day, cross-country skiing is where it’s at as it’s a sport you can do at any point in your life.
“Sometimes I think it’s a trial and error process as you try to find a sport you can connect with, no matter what your background might be.”
Bourgonje is one of only five athletes to win a medal at both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.
She won two bronze medals each at the 1992 and 1996 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona and Atlanta, earned two silver medals at the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, captured two bronze medals at the 2006 Winter Paralympics in Torino and followed that up with a silver and a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.
“I think there are so many things that sport can bring to athletes, as you get to go all over the world, meet new people and make friends that are all over the country and around the world,” Bourgonje said.
“You also learn a lot of values, such as being resilient as you can use those lessons towards different things that happen in your life so that you can keep moving forward,”
A 2019 inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Bourgonje is now a coach and mentor for other athletes, such as Prince Albert’s Brittany Hudak.
“I’m currently working with four different athletes on a regular basis,” Bourgonje said.
“To see them grow in different ways, gain confidence and achieve their goals is pretty awesome.”