Alta states 

Kelly Hand – Investing heart and soul into the Whistler community

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Hand's competitive sailing career was launched when she was 13 and chosen to crew for a much-older - and seriously competitive - skipper. It truly was a life-changing moment, she says. "I was fast-tracked from being crew on my father's boat to racing in the elite ranks of the North American circuit." She stops. Smiles at the memories. "The skipper was a rock star. I mean, we finished second that summer at the North Americans. It was an amazing learning experience, for sure!"

Hand eventually moved on to skipper her own boat. But success kept right up. Canadian Youth Champion in 1991 and 1993, she made her first national team in the summer of 1992. Seven years later, and newly crowned world's best in the Laser radial class, she returned to her home province for the Pan Am Games and a raucous reception from her local fans. "The regatta was in Gimli on Lake Winnipeg," she remembers. "It was awesome. My family, my cousins, my friends - they all came out to see me race. For me, personally, it was really memorable. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show my peers what I did for a living; what elite sailboat racing was really all about."

But it wasn't without its risks. "I came to Gimli with a world championship medal around my neck," she explains. "For sure, expectations were high." Another pause. She giggles again. "Luckily I was able to win there too..."

Considered something of an esoteric discipline by mainstream sport enthusiasts, sailboat racing is not for the faint of heart (nor for the faint of pocketbook). "Big races are like psychological marathons," explains Hand. "You might have to sail 12 races in five days. And that means having to stay calm in all sorts of conditions. You have to be really steady too." She smiles. "You see, it makes a huge difference to your final standings if you can hold it together for all five days of racing. One slip and it's pretty much over."

Which she admits she learned all about during a disappointing post-championship year. "I thought I was in really good position to make the Olympic Team for 2000," she says ruefully. But it was not to be. "My training partner qualified well and early and surprised everyone - including me." But the biggest surprise came when Hand was asked by her erstwhile partner to travel to Sidney as her coach. "So we went together," she says. "And after Sidney I was recruited to become national team coach. Which I did until right after Athens in 2004."

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