From athlete to volunteer: Shawnee Scatliff is a Canada Games lifer

Shawnee (Turk) Scatliff was 10 when she participated in the 1967 Canada Winter Games in Quebec City for figure skating in singles and pairs. She and her mom stayed at the picturesque Château Frontenac, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River.

Her bison-brown ski pants, mustard yellow jacket and long, multi-coloured toque, which hung down her back, was her warmup attire that year.

“It was my favourite thing ever,” said Scatliff.

One day she climbed to the top of a huge ice slide that looked small next to the giant hotel. Scatliff, indulging her childlike sense of adventure, zipped down the slide, ripping her ski pants along the way and needing an emergency sew from her mother before the opening ceremonies.

Scatliff and her figure skating partner Alan Cherniak went on to win the bronze medal that year in the pairs event.  In 1971, the duo attended their second Canada Winter Games, in Saskatoon, Sask, where they went on to win their second bronze medal. Since then, Scatliff has participated as both an athlete and a volunteer in 25 Canada Summer and Winter Games. She has devoted her life to the Games.

Scatliff’s athletic career started with figure skating. Her older sister Darlene (Turk) Christie was an accomplished national-calibre figure skater, and Scatliff’s mom would bring Shawnee along to watch her sister’s competitions. Darlene soon became her coach and Scatliff said it all fell into place after that.

During figure skating off-season, Scatliff started playing tennis to stay in peak physical condition. A few summers later, she became a two-sport Canada Games athlete, participating in tennis during the 1977 Summer Games in St. John’s, NFLD in addition to figure skating at the Winter Games.

“Tennis was a good complement to the perfectionism of figure skating,” Scatliff said. “In tennis, you can screw up a few times and still get up and win. Figure skating is perfectionism. You have two and half minutes to perform your routine perfectly.”

Perfection meant precise and dedicated practice. Scatliff would be at the rink at 6 a.m. every day before school, working on figures – a fundamental figure skating technique. Scatliff would later return to the rink after school to work on her singles and partner routines.

As an adult, Scatliff continued to participate in the Canada Games as the Assistant Chef de Mission for Team Manitoba. She developed schedules, liaised with other groups, organized team travel and designed Team Manitoba uniforms – among many other duties.

For the 2017 Canada Games, she’s acting as the Mission Services Consultant. She said she never gets tired of seeing how excited the athletes are at the opening ceremony, and she often tells the athletes to treat the Canada Games as their Olympics.