Even after 50 years of serving the Okanagan figure-skating community, Diane Nielsen was still in shock was she received a call in 2020 about being recognized on a province-wide scale.
The Penticton resident was among the inductees into the Skate Canada British Columbia/Yukon Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 after decades of work with the Glengarry Skating Club.
From helping raise close to $1 million for local skaters across the province to being part of the athlete support system during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Nielsen has done just about everything behind the scenes in the world of figure skating since 1972.
That’s why on April 30, she was honoured in Burnaby for dedicating much of her life to building a strong figure-skating community in B.C.
“I was speechless,” Nielsen recalled when asked about when she first heard an induction into the “builder” category would soon come. “I heard two years ago after getting a call from Ted Barton (Skate Canada’s BC/YK executive director) and didn’t even know what to say. He did most of the talking.”
Nielsen’s fundraising efforts have helped local figure skaters afford registration for various programs. A total of $800,000 in total money raised for the BC/YK Section Athlete Support Fund headlines her monetary achievements.
“Each athlete may get $300 by the end of it, but it really helps with registration and other things,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”
The support fund has helped B.C.-raised figure skaters compete in provincial championships.
Skate Canada’s BC/YK Hall of Fame induction ceremony was delayed by two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hence why Neilsen had known about the honour for just as long.
It’s not just local athletes she has supported; it’s international competitors as well.
Nielsen’s work over her five decades of experience includes acting on the support-system board for figure skaters who competed at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Originally from Whitehorse, the newest Hall of Famer inductee didn’t waste any time making an impact on the figure-skating community once she arrived to the Okanagan. She quickly joined Glengarry FSC, holding every position on the club board, Okanagan Region Board and eventually the BC/YK Section Board.
And if getting recognized for 50 years of work wasn’t emotional enough for Nielsen, there was still one surprise waiting for her when she finally received her induction.
“I got to go on stage with four of the skaters I have worked with and that just put me over the top,” she said. “It was very emotional.”