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Small town Manitoba woman bringing home Olympic gold medal

Click to play video: 'Deloraine’s Ashton Bell bringing home Olympic gold'
Deloraine’s Ashton Bell bringing home Olympic gold
Ashton Bell, 22, is being described as a 'hometown hero.' The women's hockey player will be bringing home an Olympic gold medal after Team Canada beat the United States to take first place in Beijing. Abigail Turner reports. – Feb 17, 2022

Ashton Bell, 22, is being described as a ‘hometown hero.’ The women’s hockey player will be bringing home an Olympic gold medal after Team Canada beat the United States to take first place in Beijing.

Nearly 9,500 kilometres apart in rural Manitoba, about a three-hour drive southwest of Winnipeg, the tiny community of Deloraine was cheering on the hockey superstar and her teammates virtually.

“You just think wow … this is our daughter, from small town Deloraine, Man.,” says her mother Theresa Bell.

Read more: Canada wins gold in women’s hockey at Beijing Olympics with 3-2 win over U.S.

Ashton’s small town dream turned in to an incredible reality – but her mother says it wasn’t an easy accomplishment.

“She would sacrifice a lot of things, just so that she could be on the ice,” Theresa says. “We knew she was good, so many are. We always knew it would be up to her in the end – she had the talent and she could get there if she wanted it.”

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Ashton’s eagerness to get on the ice started when she was a kid, participating in Deloraine’s early morning hockey camp, known as the breakfast program.

“Ashton was special,” Bob Caldwell, the coach of the Breakfast Program, says.

Ashton Bell pictured with childhood coach Bob Caldwell
Ashton Bell pictured with childhood coach Bob Caldwell. Submitted

Caldwell has been coaching the program for 15 years, but still remembers Bell always been one of the first in the rink.

“The program started at 7:30 in the morning and I would get there about ten after,” he says. “There’d usually be one person ripping around the ice and that was Ashton.”

“She was keen, she listened really well, she was such a good kid,” he says.

As she grew up, Ashton went to the United States for post-secondary school, playing hockey for the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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Her mom says they knew her goal was to play for Team Canada.

“We knew she was prepared to go all out, and make it happen to the best of her ability,” Theresa says.

Meanwhile, the town of under 1,000 people has been cheering her on since the moment they found out Ashton would be playing in the Olympics.

Read more: Nova Scotia connections galore for Canada’s gold medal winning hockey team in Beijing

“The support that she’s received from the community has been tremendous,” Theresa says. “The windows painted and the businesses and the main town sign and her name just everyone … it’s been a big deal.”

Had things been different, without COVID-related restrictions, Theresa says her family would have been in stands in China supporting their daughter.

“Just the fact that (the hockey players) were able to be there, was the most important thing,” she says. Despite not being in Beijing, Theresa says they were still able to get in on the gold medal celebration.

“She facetimed and they were all celebrating in the dressing room and she scanned the room and we scanned ours so she could see who was celebrating with us.”

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“It was kind of a surreal moment.”

Ashton is expected to arrive back home early next week, sporting the new hardware.

“We’re just very proud of course and just so excited for them all.”

Deloraine Reeve Gord Weidenhamer tells Global News discussions are underway to host a celebration to mark the 22-year-old’s incredible achievement.

Click to play video: 'Beijing Olympics: Canada women’s hockey team says gold medal win was ‘very special’'
Beijing Olympics: Canada women’s hockey team says gold medal win was ‘very special’

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