Ever since she was young, Rebecca Dussault gravitated towards an active lifestyle and the world of sports. She said that when she was young, it didn’t matter what it was. She wanted to be outside, exercising, getting her blood moving. But by the time she was in high school, she discovered that her one true love was cross-country skiing. She was good at it. Really good. And after seeing success in her hometown, she began competing across her state, across the country, and across the world at the young age of 16.
From 1999 to 2006, Dussault competed in two World Championships, 4 World Cups, and the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. As the Winter Olympics kick off today, John Morales welcomed Dussault onto Morning Air to talk skiing and what it means to be a Catholic, an Olympian, and a mother.
Dussault said that coming up, the world of sports gave her an escape. She grew up in a broken, dysfunctional family and she thanks God for providing her with the opportunities to mature and grow in holiness through something that she loved: sports. Gymnastics, swimming, and skiing combined with her faith to fill a void in her heart that was created when she was nine years old, and she credits that process with allowing her to move into the next chapter of her family life with gracefulness and peace.
However, skiing wasn’t always the golden path that it had appeared to be when Dussault was younger. Getting older, she spent a lot of time with the national team traveling the world, and she realized that there was a significant disconnect between her and her teammates. Dussault being a devout Catholic had a very strong, structured sense of her morals and ethical standards. Those around her did not.
“My lack of conformity to the team’s moral values was constantly a really raw area. And it was pressures from teammates and coaches that eventually led to me wanting to retire. I truly had to ski every day thinking, ‘This is great. I’ll probably win a gold medal, but I will lose my soul in the process.’” After stepping away from skiing to focus on her family and her faith, Dussault gave birth to two children. She returned to the sport in 2010 and qualified for the Vancouver games but was denied because the team did not want to invest in a 30-year-old skier.
Dussault received that as a message that it was time to step away from the sport as a career. She said she is proud to have even been allowed one time to represent her nation, her faith, and her family on an international level. Talking about her Olympic experience, being able to travel with her family to Turin wasn’t purely a professionally motivated venture for Dussault. She said that bringing her husband and child (what she called her “domestic church”) around the world to experience the faith and receive the Eucharist was a spiritual journey.
Dussault has a special devotion to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the patron of mountaineering, and she recalls writing his name on her skis in Turin. It was part of her goal as one of the only Catholic Olympians to spread devotion to him, and the Italian media interviewed her about it, validating her efforts.
But the Olympics also opened her eyes. Dussault remembers walking into Mass in the Olympic village with her family and being the only people in there besides a few nuns and the priest. She was shocked. “We just had to keep doing what we knew was right and in the right order. God first, then family, then somewhere down there, sports.”
The importance of her faith above all else was always something Dussault focused on, even when she was young. She recalled that one time when she was twelve, she received the Eucharist on her skis as they celebrated Mass by moonlight. And then just recently, her son received the sacrament of reconciliation on his skis up at a resort. In remote locations, out on the mountainous slopes, even this sport cannot stop your search for the Lord.
“There’s just this continuum of seeking the Lord and putting Him first. In that Eucharistic experience, there is no greater sport for us as Catholics. That is the pinnacle. That is the source. That is our game. That is where we come to the field of play spiritually and give our all. That is the greatest demonstration of all of our sacrifice, all of our desire, all of our longing. And that happens around the world.”
Listen to the full segment below:
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