Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Charest Hopes to Use Platform to Encourage Girls to Play Sports

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Charest Hopes to Use Platform to Encourage Girls to Play Sports

Article excerpt

Charest hopes to use voice to encourage girls

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TORONTO - If not for a no-girls rule, Isabelle Charest might have ended up shooting pucks instead of skating in circles.

Canada's chef de mission for the Pyeongchang Olympics followed her older sister Nathalie into speedskating. Nathalie had her mind set on hockey, but growing up in the eastern Quebec city of Rimouski, a half a day's drive from Montreal, "this little city did not allow a girl to play hockey," Isabelle said.

Lucky for speedskating. Isabelle Charest went on to win three Olympic medals and seven world championship medals as one of Canada's greatest short-track skaters, and she wants to parlay her success in sport to get more girls involved.

"It's actually the legacy I would like to leave from being chef de mission," Charest said. "If I have a voice, I want to use it for that."

Among Canada's sobering statistics: Only two per cent of girls between 12 and 17 are getting enough physical activity. And if a girl hasn't participated in sports by age 10 in Canada, there is only a 10 per cent chance they'll be physically active as adults.

Outside of her work as the Canadian team's spokeswoman, mentor and head cheerleader for Pyeongchang, the 46-year-old Charest works in communications for the Val-des-Cerfs school commission southeast of Montreal. She's seen the drop-out firsthand.

But she also knows the opportunities are there.

"It's funny because when I went to Rio (as an assistant chef for the 2016 Olympics), it was obvious to me the diversity of sports, and how everybody can find their passion," said Charest. "It could be a sport that's more artistic, it could be a sport that's more powerful. You see that whole range of bodies. So, there is something for everyone."

Perception might be skewed, Charest said, by the overwhelming success in Brazil where women won 16 of Canada's 22 medals. …

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