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Bees keep Canadian ski jumper Abigail Strate busy in summer

Canadian ski jumper Abigail Strate, who is a certified bee keeper, is shown at the Honey Meadows Farm in DeWinton, Alberta on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Tending bees helps Strate find tranquillity amid an adrenalin rush. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Tending bees helps Canadian ski jumper Abigail Strate find tranquility amid an adrenalin rush.

That's a handy skill to have when she's plunging down an inrun to defy gravity for as long as she can.

"It's actually trained me to be quite calm in kind of chaotic situations, and those situations happen quite often in sports," Strate said.

She's been stung more times than she can count, but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm for the hard-working insects.

"It is calming if you're calm and you're working nicely around them, but it can also get a bit hectic if the bees aren't too happy you're there," Strate said.

"Maybe because I'm a ski jumper and in the winter I get that adrenalin rush, maybe I get that adrenalin rush being around the bees and the buzz around my head."

The 23-year-old from Calgary spends months away from home training in Slovenia and also travelling around the globe to compete.

One of the first things she likes to do when she returns to Calgary in the spring is check the hives she and her father Rod established northwest of the city, to see what their bees have been up to and how they survived the winter.

The daughter and father took a course five years ago to become certified beekeepers.

"It always kind of fascinated me, beekeeping and honey and hives and the whole production," Strate said. "There's a lot of really interesting facts about them that most people wouldn't know. I could go on for days telling you about them."

Strate helped Canada win its first Olympic medal in ski jumping in Beijing in 2022 when she and Alexandria Loutitt, MacKenzie Boyd-Clowes and Matthew Soukup earned bronze in the new mixed-team event.

Strate claimed a career-high three World Cup medals — a silver and two bronze — this past winter, plus another silver in a team event with Loutitt.

"That was just really a good feeling," Strate said. "I've worked a lot of years at this sport. I've had a lot of really not fun years and having that not one-time podium, but three in a row showed me 'OK, I can do this.'

"I've gotten silvers and bronze. How can I get that gold?"

Strate is also studying graphic design at York University's Toronto Film School. She returns to Slovenia next week to start training for next season.

She will ask her dad for regular updates from their two hives this summer. When Strate gets home again for a few days in October before the season starts, she'll help her dad prepare the hives for winter.

"Finally getting that jar of honey after doing the full year of work, I mean we probably get 200 jars max, but it's very nice seeing them all lined up," she said.

Teammates and friends call her "Bee". Strate has decals of the insect on her right ski and also on the knee of her jumpsuit. She's been known to slap bee stickers on random items at competitions, including the ski jumping team's vehicle.

"I just stick them all over the place in events and in cars. I put them in the changing cabins," Strate said. "I don't know how much the organizers like that, but I'm going to keep doing it until someone tells me not to."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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