September 21, 2023
Sometimes the best way out is through, even when it feels far from the path of least resistance.
It’s a notion Saskatoon coach Shane Bradley was reminded of in the days after local wrestler Natasha Fox died in a collision between her bicycle and a vehicle earlier this year.
“Probably the toughest thing we had to deal with was — and I’m not sure how many people know this — three days after the accident we travelled to the under-23 Olympic national team trials in Montreal,” said Bradley. “That was one where we really didn’t want to go. The timing was terrible. One of the athletes going [SueAnne Harms] was a training partner of Natasha’s and a very good friend.”
Bradley remembered Fox in part for her exceptional work ethic and also as someone who lived and breathed for her sport above nearly all else. It was that reputation that contributed to a collaborative decision to continue on with the Montreal competition in spite of the team’s collective grief.
“We decided between us it was something Natasha would have wanted us to do because she never would have wanted us to miss an opportunity like that. But to be there just a few days after the crash … was extremely difficult and it still boggles my mind that she [Harms] was able to be on the mat.”
The tragedy also posed other challenges for Bradley, who has coached wrestling at the University of Saskatchewan since 1988, in addition to other current duties as head coach of the Saskatoon Junior Huskies Wrestling Club and as a high-performance coach with Saskatchewan Amateur Wrestling Association.
“It’s a small sport in a sense and we all know each other extremely well,” Bradley said, noting he had known Fox through the sport for the better part of 20 years and considered her “like another daughter to me.”
Fox’s funeral was held six days after the Olympic trials wrapped up. Her legacy and dedication were further honoured when Bradley and several of his athletes held a team practice the morning of the service. It was how, together, they were able to grieve, and have an outlet.
“We were actually at practice when we got the news that Natasha had passed,” he continued. “We finished practice but then that was a real tough drive home. And then news gets out really quick so then it’s a matter of trying to deal with your own emotions and your own grief but also ensure you’re there to support others because that’s what many of our athletes in our wrestling family needed at that time.
“You’re never sure what kind of influence you have but obviously you have to work through that and give yourself the opportunity to grieve. You want to recognize that this is something that has occurred but also that it’s something we need to able to talk about.”