Momo Kano Podolsky’s ten-year journey through sport started with taking a chance.
Let’s rewind back to Skate Canada International (SCI) 2013, where Japanese figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu was set to compete in Saint John, New Brunswick. Kano Podolsky had always been a casual figure skating fan, tuning in at the Olympics and watching well-known household names like Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko and Bourne and Kratz, but she had never been involved in the sport until she applied to become a volunteer.
Kano Podolsky, who had already purchased tickets to watch the competition, ended up seeing a recruitment posting from Skate Canada for event volunteers and applied before immediately regretting it. Little did she know that initial regret would result in new friendships, a new perspective on sport and the opportunity to use skills and participate in a job she had always been curious about – interpreting.
Her application was initially denied, before she was contacted by the events team to gauge her interest in volunteering in the Media Centre. Kano Podolsky decided to take the plunge, packed her bags and headed to Saint John, arriving the day before competition.
Ten years and 23 events later, Kano Podolsky says that she has learned what it is like to be part of an organizing committee, how to act around athletes and the different duties that come with her important role. “Seeing the amount of behind the scenes work that is involved, how many people are involved. There are so many different pieces and that’s really exciting. You don’t realize these things when you are just a spectator. It’s great to be a part of.”
We asked Podolsky some of her key memories from over the years. Not surprisingly, her first day topped the list. It was the last day before competition, and she was getting a tour of the premise when she passed by Patrick Chan in the interview area of the media centre. Kano Podolsky tried taking a photo only to be told that it was not allowed, learning right there and then what it meant to be working behind the scenes. To this day, her favourite event remains Skate Canada International 2019, which was hosted in Kelowna, B.C.
“It was a huge event; it was totally sold out; any event with Yuzuru Hanyu was sold out and the fans were wild. The Winnie the Poohs were raining down and Nam Nguyen was skating after Yuzuru. Everyone was still trying to pick up the Poohs so he waited quite a long while, then he had the skate of his life. It was the most exciting event.” Nam Nguyen ended up winning the silver medal at this event.
Through the years, her enthusiasm has not faded, as Kano Podolsky was just as excited at Skate Canada International 2022 in Mississauga, Ontario, where she cheered on Japanese pair gold medallists Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara. Her proximity to the duo isn’t coincidental; she has gotten to know the young Japanese team quite well since they moved to train in her hometown of Oakville, Ontario. Watching them win at SCI 2022 was all the more enthralling because of this.
Life can be so multifaceted and Momo Kano Podolsky’s story illuminates that. Volunteering has given her a new way to use skills she previously did not get to use in her daily life. By day, prior to retirement, Kano Podolsky was a professor holding a PhD in Sociology. Later in her career, she moved on to become a Graduate Program Administrator at the Munk School of Public Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. This is leaps and bounds from the media work and interpreter work she has gotten to experience directly from volunteering. “I always wanted to be an interpreter and was interested in sport. That part of volunteering at Skate Canada is really interesting to me.”
When asked what she would say to people thinking of signing up to volunteer, she told us: “You have to take the first step and try it and see if you like it – chances are it’s going to be exciting. Getting your jacket and accreditation, it’s just fun and exciting. If you think of volunteering as an opportunity to explore what you can be doing better, it really broadens your life. You’re not doing something you usually do but get to use resources you have.”
Looking back, that one decision in 2013 led to a decade of memories and key moments that have enriched her life. To get to round out your life, build new relationships and be entrenched in something so much bigger than yourself is what it is like to volunteer at a Skate Canada event and for Momo Kano Podolsky, it is something that she would not give up for the world.
Click here to view volunteer opportunities at upcoming Skate Canada events.