Margarita Gorbounova (right), with guide Andrea Bundon, has qualified for four events in Sochi (James Netz Photography, Cross-Country Canada)
Margarita Gorbounova had her medal around her neck when she set out for Sochi. Inscribed on it are two words that mean the world for the second-time Paralympian.
Not “Sochi 2014,” but the words "Tanya" and "Cherish" on a necklace that the visually impaired Nordic skier wears in memory of her sister-in-law by marriage and sister for all other intents and purposes. Tanya Martin, whose spirit belied her endless health challenges — "life was a battle for her," says Cliff Martin, Tanya’s brother and Margarita’s husband — died Dec. 4, five months after cancer was discovered in her esophagus.
There are all the minutely detailed training programs for the Games. There is no how-to for juggling being 'all in' while your best friend — who is only 35 years old, whose wedding you wanted to plan since she saved the day so many times while planning your big day three years ago — clings to life. Gorbounova's recourse has been to push on as much as realistically possible. Grief cannot be jammed into a sports metaphor.
"When she was sick, I often thought about it — it was so hard to manage my training," Gorbounova, a part-time skier and federal government French-English translator who is due to represent Canada in three cross-country races and one biathlon event, said prior to leaving for Sochi. "In an Olympic year, you can’t just half-ass it — it is 'I have to do this training. It has to be exactly as planned.' Then there is this whole, 'Tanya is sick and I want to go visit her.'
"It was a struggle for sure, that part,” added the 29-year-old, who was born with cataracts and has only about 10 per cent of her vision. "I think a few times for sure I thought about whether I should just quit and be there with her. But you always think that she wouldn't want me to do that — she would want me to keep going."
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