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Rehorick's tally: Five Olympics and counting

Figure skating judge off to Beijing to prep for 2010

Sally Rehorick
Sally Rehorick (Courtesy of Joy Cummings Dixon)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(07/29/2008) - Sally Rehorick knows the Winter Olympics inside out. She has been on the ground in high-profile positions at the last five Games at the request of either the IOC, the COC, the ISU or Skate Canada.

Vancouver 2010 will make it six in a row.

Until now, all of Rehorick's roles had been volunteer positions, but in late 2006 she was hired by the Vancouver Organizing Committee to head up its International Client Services division. The long list of services and responsibilities that fall under her jurisdiction is enough to make your head spin.

At Four Continents in Vancouver in February -- which serves at the figure skating test event for the Olympic Games -- Rehorick's department will test-drive both their language and dignitary services.

"We're madly recruiting right now for volunteer language people for Japanese, Korean and Mandarin. Those are languages they need for Four Continents," said Rehorick.

At past Games, Rehorick, 60, has been Canada's figure skating team leader (Albertville 1992), the assistant chef de mission for the country's entire team of athletes (Lillehammer 1994), men's figure skating judge (Nagano 1998), Canadian Chef de mission (Salt Lake City 2002), and ISU officials assessment commission (OAC) member (Turin 2006).

In Salt Lake, Rehorick was thrust into the spotlight amidst the furore that erupted over the pairs event scandal which, ultimately, resulted in the unprecedented awarding of gold medals to both the initially-declared winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, of Russia, and Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. As leader of the Canadian delegation -- and, coincidently, an ISU level judge -- Rehorick had a key role to play in resolving the disconcerting mess on Sale and Pelletier's behalf.

In the wake of the brouhaha, Rehorick stated, "We really do need to whack ourselves on the side of the head and ask, 'What can be done here?' ... We have to make sure this fiasco from the Olympics never happens again."

Rehorick savored the chance to do her part in that regard four years later when she was appointed by the ISU to serve on the panel that assessed the judges' performance in Turin, where the new points-based judging system was used at the Olympics for the first time.

"That was quite interesting... to be involved in the whole revamping of the judging system and to be on the first OAC at the Olympic level to see how the system worked," she said.

In her post with VANOC, Rehorick's client list includes the countries' heads of state and ministers of sport, IOC members and staff, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) representatives, presidents of all the national Olympic committees, and heads of the international sports federations -- such as the ISU's Ottavio Cinquanta and Fredi Schmid. Each group has its own job to do during the Games and Rehorick's group is charged with helping them do it.

Before the Games, Rehorick's division handles pre-Games meeting for the IOC, provides diplomatic and protocol briefings, and hosts the observer missions from London (2012 summer Games) and Socchi, Russia, (2014 Winter Games), and from cities like Chicago and Madrid that are bidding on future Games.

Protocol and language services, including the provision of interpreters prior to and during the Games in virtually every venue and for everyone at the Games, is another huge responsibility that falls to Rehorick and her staff of 18 -- which will grow to 45 by Games time. Assistance will also come from 800 to 1000 volunteers.

"I come from the sport side so the dignitary stuff is kind of interesting. I'm fascinated by it actually. Coming from sports, my heart and soul is to do the best for the athletes and the coaches, so working on the dignitary side, it helps me to keep that focus of how the athletes are feeling about all this," she said, referring to the dignitaries wanting to be able to meet their countries' athletes and visit the Athletes Village.

"It helps me manage my clients better... It's a brand new world for me."

Rehorick, now retired from her position as director of the Second Language Research Institute of Canada at the University of New Brunswick, insists she never wrote a grand plan to become a veteran of the Olympic experience. Rather, the opportunities came by happenstance, confirming her life philosophy that "all life's major decisions are made by accident and drift."

This Saturday, Rehorick is off to Beijing as leader of the VANOC observer mission to the summer Olympic Games. She and select 2010 staff will observe some of the inner workings which apply to their responsibilities. Rehorick will also help to develop the seating plan for 10,000 dignitaries attending the Opening Ceremony to get experience related to the same job her division will do in 2010.

Last season, Rehorick continued to officiate at the big figure skating events, including serving as technical controller for the world championships in Sweden and judging the Grand Prix Final. She also officiated at Canadians and did a judging seminar in Seoul. Her figure skating activities will be limited in the upcoming season due to the demands of her VANOC position, although she hopes to work at least one Grand Prix event.

In her youth in the 1960s, Rehorick was a competitive skater herself, albeit not at the highest levels. She trained at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, which has subsequently been the training site for Kurt Browning, Kristi Yamaguchi and Sale and Pelletier.

"For me, continuing along the high-performance route in figure skating, had as much to do with wanting to stay in the sport in one way or another, so judging was the route I took."

Asked if the 2014 Olympics are on her radar, Rehorick said she has no desire to take on another full-time Games job but she would definitely consider "something back in the figure skating trenches."