Two Elite Skeleton Athletes Now Dedicated To Law School

Former international competitors Greg Rafter and Robynne Thompson bring valuable transferable skills

Staff Writer - 28 May 2019

Two elite Canadian athletes, each of whom competed internationally and one who coached at the 2018 Winter Olympics, are now challenging themselves with law school.

First-year students Greg Rafter and Robynne Thompson represented Canada's national team in skeleton, a sliding sport in which competitors race down a frozen track on a small sled, headfirst and face down. Both believe a career in law will allow them to continue being involved in sport.

Rafter, the athlete-turned-coach, is interested in the public policy and politics of sports.

"Many aspects of sport have an immense political and administrative framework that affects every aspect of competition, including venue organization, governing bodies for competition, and drug testing," he says. "It makes you want to look behind the curtain and become a positive part of that process."

The native of Calgary chose the University of Alberta because of its reputation for excellence and its Health Law Institute.

Thompson was drawn to law studies to make an impact in other people's lives.

"You can make change in the world, I feel, as an athlete. I want to turn it now into how I can help other people accomplish their goals."

While the worlds of competitive sports and law look different, the lessons the high-performance athletes learned have prepared them for the next three years of school.

Public speaking, time management and staying cool under pressure are abilities that will be invaluable, says Thompson.

Rafter says professionalism, cohesion among peers and teamwork are transferable attributes he developed as an athlete.

"It's performance-based here, but as students in a cohort we still train together," says Rafter.

Rafter's background in skeleton includes competing in IBSF World Cups, and on the Intercontinental, Europa and America's Cup circuits before he switched to coaching for the Canadian team.

Thompson has competed in several World Cups as well, placing first in the 2014 Canadian Championship, and first in the Junior Skeleton World Championships in 2011.

"It took me eight years to get my bachelor's because I only did university in the summer until I was done competing."

Now retired from sports competition, both can redirect their laser-focus to the law.

"Like being an athlete, as a lawyer you're an advocate," says Rafter.