After more than a decade representing Canada on the national wheelchair basketball team, Elmira’s Katie Harnock is ready for a change.
She has officially retired from the team just ahead of this year’s training camp, and she says she can look back on her career with a sense of accomplishment.
“I remember the first game I actually played in. Things like that seem so long ago and still stick out pretty well in my mind. I think the high would be winning (the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships) in 2014, though. Especially in Canada,” she said. “We won the world championships in Amsterdam in 2006, but I was so new that I was just kind of blown away by everything. I was certainly more involved in 2014. That definitely sticks out.”
While playing for Team Canada, Harnock has won two world championships, and silver medals at the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games, the 2011 Guadalajara Parapan Am Games and the 2007 Rio Parapan Am Games.
Not every big game in her career has resulted in a medal or a world championship, however.
“I feel accomplished, but I think not winning a Paralympic medal (in 2016) sticks out a little bit. I can’t complain about the opportunities I have had, though, and the things that I have been able to do and the great people that you meet,” she said.
Now that her jersey is on the shelf, she may look into coaching or mentoring other players, but for now, Harnock says she wants to start doing the things many people take for granted.
“Now that I am not travelling so much, and kind of settling in, I want to do things that other people get to do. I would love to help out, though, in whatever capacity they need it,” she said. “The things I am looking forward to doing now are things that people think are ridiculous. I am looking forward to things like getting a dog. I am disproportionately excited about getting a dog, but it is about things like getting an apartment or a house, settling down, going to the St. Jacobs market and things that I have never done before because I was always travelling and was never around.”She says her focus has changed, and her priorities are a bit different after playing for Team Canada for 12 years.
“When you are younger, the medals probably mean more than they should, and now when I think about my career, I think about the people I met, the coaches I have had and the people that I will still stay in contact with,” she shared. “It is those relationships with the people that I have been able to meet all over the world. I will take that with me more than any kind of medal or trophy.”
She also has a bit of advice for those who want to follow her example – love the game and play as much as you can.
“I never really thought about making the national team while I was growing up, which I think makes me a bit of an outlier. I never set out to be on the team,” she said. “It just seemed so big and so ridiculous. The national team at the time were really, really good, so I didn’t give it much thought. I just enjoyed playing in the driveway, at school, anywhere I could get a game in. That was my focus and this is just where it took me.”