The last few years have not been good to Diedra Dionne, a member of the Canadian Freestyle Aerials team. This week she announced that she would be stepping down from her sport after a benign brain tumor was detected in her right temporal lobe. It's not considered life-threatening but there is always a risk if Dionne suffered a head injury.
"My heart is broken," said the teary 27 year old at a news conference last Friday. "I still have an incredible desire to be a part of the 2010 Olympics here in Vancouver, but the risk I would be taking might jeopardize my chance at a successful life following sport.
"I will miss my teammates and coaches but I truly believe I am passing the torch to a group of inspired, talented young women who will continue to push the limits of women's aerials."
Dionne was a young up and coming skier at a time when the two V's - Veronica Brenner and Veronika Bauer - were among the top women in aerials and fought her way into the top tier. While she couldn't match some of the other athletes in difficulty level she was technically perfect, and in 2005 she was on the podium three times. In 2006, before the Winter Games, she injured her back and neck in training and missed the next two seasons while she recovered. She returned in the 2008 season and managed one silver medal. But had trouble cracking the top 10 in 2009.
Despite her trouble rebounding from the injury - and more intense competition from countries like Australia and China on the World Cup tour, there was a good chance she may have represented Canada in 2010, alongside veterans Bauer and Amber Peterson. Other members of the national team this year, Sabrina Guerin and Genevieve Tougas, are rookies.
Dionne retires with eight World Cup medals, two bronze medals from world championships and a bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Dionne used some of her injury time to pursue a BA from Athabasca University, and has toured as a public speaker. She plans to attend law school in September 2010.
"Deidra has never shied away from a challenge," said Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.
"While this is not the way she intended to end her competitive career, I have no doubt that she will be incredibly successful in whatever path she takes from here on in, and I hope that path will keep her engaged in the freestyle world in some capacity.