Going into the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, much was made of the ambitious “un-Canadian” goals laid out in the Own The Podium program, which was intended to do just that. And while much of Canada was still basking in the glow of a record fourteen gold medals along came North Vancouver’s Lauren Woolstencroft.

Already Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian of all-time going into the 2010 Paralympics, perhaps we should have had an inkling of what was to come. Then again, Woolstencroft herself didn’t expect such lofty success.

She merely went out and won five gold medals in all five para-alpine skiing disciplines in which she competed, tying a Paralympic record. The Games had its’ new “Golden Girl” and a Canadian athlete truly did ‘own the podium.’ Five of them actually.

Born in Calgary, Woolstencroft began skiing at age four, her strongest early memories of family skiing vacations down to Whitefish, Montana. Despite being born missing her left arm below the elbow, as well as both legs below the knees, she never saw herself as having any disability. Even while very young, an incredible determination marked her personality. Woolstencroft’s mother likes to tell the story of how her daughter came home from school one day and without telling anyone went down into the basement and wouldn’t leave until she’d taught herself how to skip rope.

Woolstencroft first became involved in competitive skiing at age fourteen when a friend, who was the only girl on the Alberta provincial team, wanted her to try it as well. Within two years she was attending her first World Cup event in Europe and by 1998 she was a full-time member of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team.

In 1999, Woolstencroft moved to BC to attend the University of Victoria and success appeared just around the bend. She represented Canada at the 2002 and 2006 Paralympic Games winning three gold medals, as well as one silver and one bronze. By the time the 2010 Paralympics rolled around, Woolstencroft had accumulated over fifty World Cup medals, eight world championship titles, and was named the 2006 International Paralympic Committee Athlete of the Year. She had also completed her degree at UVIC and taken a job with BC Hydro as an electrical engineer, even working on some of the venues in which she would later be competing.

Few recall today that she skied poorly—for her—during the early part of the 2009-10 season leading up to the Paralympics. Some good pre-Games training straightened things out, but nothing could have prepared her for what was to come. Woolstencroft didn’t just win her events; she dominated, winning the Super Combined, Downhill, Super G, Slalom, and Giant Slalom by a combined thirty-five seconds. Five gold medals in five events in six glorious days.

For her efforts, she was chosen as Canada’s flagbearer at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympic Games and nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year.

Now residing year-round in North Vancouver, she announced her retirement from competitive skiing in June 2010.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.