In 2010, Erika Persson watched the Vancouver Olympics on TV. This month, she’s much more involved—she’s headed to South Korea as the team physician for the 17 Team Canada figure skaters, part of their health-care team as well as assisting other Canadian athletes at the games.
Persson is a clinical assistant professor in pediatrics and family medicine in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, and a physician in pediatric sport medicine at the Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic. A graduate of the University of Alberta, she was introduced to working with young athletes during a fellowship in Winnipeg. Now back in Edmonton, Persson works with all levels of athletes from a variety of sports.
“I’m excited to help our skaters achieve their best possible performance,” says Persson. “I’m honoured to be part of the team and to represent the Maple Leaf.”
Persson has a long history of providing medical support for local elite athletes. She was on the host health care team for the most recent Alberta Winter and Summer Games and the past three Canada Games. She has also been involved with Skate Canada for seven years, witnessing first-hand the increased intensity and natural progression of many of the current Team Canada figure skating athletes.
The PyeongChang Olympics won’t be an entirely new experience for Persson. She was the Chief Medical Officer for the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), an initiative of the International Olympic Committee to celebrate junior athletes in an Olympic Setting. The Canadian Olympic Committee has supported teams at all four of the Youth Games, and Persson says many of those athletes continue on to the Olympics.
But each Olympics is different—having been at previous events and YOG isn’t exactly the same as being at these Olympics. There are expectations to manage and Persson says it’s important to take the time to simply appreciate that they’re there and the hard work that has preceded the event. Not to mention it’s a lot of travel—It’s a long trip from Western Canada to South Korea.
It will help that the rink is familiar. In early 2017, a delegation of Canadian skaters competed at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championship, held in South Korea as a test event for the Olympics. Persson calls that competition the “dress rehearsal” for the big games. Now, it’s time for the real thing.
FAST FACT: Several UAlberta sport and exercise medicine physicians have previously supported Team Canada’s medical team at the Olympic Games, including Connie Lebrun, Terry Defreitas and Marni Wesner.