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Rod Strate cried tears of joy in the early hours of Monday morning as he watched his daughter make history at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Abigail Strate, 20, Alexandria Loutitt, 18, Matthew Soukup, 24, and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, 30, captured the bronze medal in the first-ever mixed team ski jumping competition at an Olympic Games.

The team also won Canada’s first medal ever in the sport, nearly 100 years after its debut.

“There’s not a lot of tears left in me or the rest of my family,” Rod Strate said in a phone interview from his home in Calgary, hours after the historic win.

“We’re all super, super excited. Couldn’t be happier for Abi and her team.”

Rod Strate said he’s overwhelmed with pride for his daughter, who got her start in ski jumping at the age of six and has persisted with the sport ever since, despite multiple injuries as well as a lack of ski jumping facilities to train at in Canada.

The only thing that could’ve made the victory better, he said, was if he could’ve been there in person to cheer his daughter on from the sidelines.

“I get it, we’re in a global pandemic, but I really would have liked to have gone to see her,” Rod Strate added.

On Vancouver Island, Laura Boyd-Clowes and her partner woke up in the middle of the night to watch her brother Mackenzie, who has been ski jumping since he was seven, compete. He secured the bronze on Canada’s final jump, travelling 101.5 metres and scoring 128.1 points.

“It’s just incredible,” Laura Boyd-Clowes said.

“It’s really been his whole life and a lot of sacrifices had to be made to get to this point, so I’m really hoping that he sees that it’s paid off.”

Maya Soukup was soaking in her brother Matthew’s accomplishment from thousands of kilometres away in St. John’s, N.L. Like his fellow teammates, Matthew Soukup got his start at a young age at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, and has been training in Europe for months at a time.

“‘I’m feeling extremely proud for Matthew,” she said.

“He’s been working for this for over a decade. And I think coming to the Olympics on its own is a huge accomplishment. And the fact that he’s now come out of it with a bronze medal is just, it’s phenomenal.”

Speaking on the phone from Beijing, Todd Stretch, president of Ski Jumping Canada, said he could hardly contain his excitement when the Canadian team secured the medal.

“Being there at that moment, watching the final jumpers and Mackenzie’s final jump put us in third place, that was a fantastic, tremendous experience,” he recalled.

Stretch said the victory underlines the dedication that the Canadian ski jumpers put into the sport. He noted the athletes spend roughly $50,000 annually – largely out of their own pockets – and tend to spend nine months a year in Slovenia to train.

The team faced an “especially hard” time at the start of the pandemic, he said, because they were unable to leave Canada and had no access to facilities.

“We weren’t able to get to the gyms, we were training in fields, on the back of a pickup truck with weights, while in Europe, the Europeans were able to use the infrastructure and jump hundreds of times. Once we were able to get across into Slovenia, then we continued on,” Stretch said.

“The team has worked so hard to get where they’re at. Their resilience and grit and determination is unlike anything I’ve seen. Nothing would stop them. And this was a byproduct of their efforts.”

Stretch said he hopes the medal win will highlight the talents of Canadian ski jumpers and secure more funding and support for athletes going forward.

“We need to develop the sport within Canada and ensure that there’s a pathway for the younger jumpers,” he added.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.