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From rugby to luge, Langford athlete has eyes on 2030 Olympics

Megan Sampson changed sports due to an unexpected phone call
Megan Sampson has her eyes on the 2030 Olympics for Team Canada in luge.

When the torch is lit for the 2024 Winter Olympics in Paris, France, millions of people will settle down to watch and marvel at the strength, skill speed and determination of some of the best athletes in the world.

As we watch those athletes though, we will rarely consider the long road that they had to navigate to qualify for the competition and the sheer strength of character that was required to achieve their level of excellence.

Consider Langford’s Megan Sampson.

Sampson has always wanted to excel as an athlete.

She started playing rugby when she was 10 years old and the focus and effort that she displayed, even at that tender age, set her apart from most of her peers.

By the time she was 12, she was asking whether she could try out at the RBC Training Ground. That’s a talent identification and athlete funding program designed to find young athletes with Olympic potential and provide them with the resources they need to achieve their podium dreams.

Not your usual request for a 12-year-old.

Unfortunately, she was told that she had to be at least 14 years old to try out.

That didn’t discourage Sampson. Instead, it motivated her to redouble her efforts and training. At 13, she tried out for and was placed on the BC Bears (rugby club) and was later selected for the Tropical Sevens in Florida. That was with the MacDowell Rugby Academy.

Finally, at 14, Sampson got her chance to go to the RBC Training ground, along with more than 2,200 other aspiring athletes where her strength, power, endurance and speed were all evaluated.

But, when she got a call, it wasn’t from anyone associated with rugby.

“I got called by Luge Canada and asked to go to a training camp in Calgary and, honestly, I was confused. I knew nothing about luge and was quite surprised. I’d never even seen it on TV,” said Sampson. “But there was something in the testing that they spotted, and they thought I’d be good at luge.”

So, Sampson headed off to Calgary and had her first experience with the sport.

Now for those who don’t know a lot about luge, imagine lying on your back on a small sled and hurtling down an icy track at speeds that can reach more than 120 kilometres an hour.

“It was fun, and I wanted to do it again,” Sampson recalled. “It was kind of scary, but I got used to it.”

Things progressed and Sampson was named in the top 100 by the RBC Training Ground and was also approached by Luge Canada to begin a three-year training program in which she’ll be completing more than 200 slides a year.

“If she keeps going (and there’s nothing to suggest that this little fireball won’t do just that) she could start competing on a national level in two years,” said Megan’s mother Chrissy Keddle. “She could make a junior national level from there and if she does well, she could look toward the 2030 Olympics.”

Circling back to the opening of this profile, pause for a moment to consider the among of training, running and determination it has taken to get Megan Sampson to this point and the hours of running, lifting and training that still lie ahead.

Sampson isn’t perturbed by the prospect.

“It would be really exciting to get to the Olympics, and right now it’s a lot of fun training and competing,” she said.

Oh, and in case anyone thinks that Sampson has forgotten about rugby, they’d be mistaken.

Sampson still plays for Belmont Secondary School’s team as well as for the Crimson Tide and the Westshore Rugby Club.

“She is an awesome rugby player, “said her Belmont coach, Charlotte Haley. “She’s got this amazing work ethic and is willing to challenge herself to do things that are outside her comfort zone. At the same time, she’s a quiet leader who inspires the whole team.”

And those characteristics- characteristics that Sampson shares with virtually all elite athletes - are why we may one day see Megan Sampson at the Olympics.