By Lisa Thibodeau
By day, Deborah Lovegrove is typically found inside the Kanata North Business Association’s offices on Legget Drive where she works as the organization’s marketing and events lead.
But come the weekend, Lovegrove has a habit of hurling herself out of airplanes 13,000 feet above the ground – a pastime that’s led to a slew of awards and accolades for her skydiving feats.
The first of Lovegrove’s over 2,600 jumps took place approximately 25 years ago following a divorce. Lovegrove’s sister made the out-of-the- blue suggestion that she give skydiving a shot as a way of shaking things up.
“I told her that was the craziest thing I had ever heard,” Lovegrove recalls, noting she was already experienced in rock climbing, whitewater rafting and horseback riding and was not in need of a new thrill.
But she went along with her sister’s idea. Skydiving became an “instant addiction” that took Lovegrove to provincial and national championships, winning Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and enshrined her name in the world record books.
“It’s a sport where you have to be very sure of yourself, and Deb is that type of person,” says Tom McCarthy, a longtime friend and owner of Skydiving Gananoque, where Lovegrove has been a weekend fixture for more than two decades. “She’s very strong willed and a no-nonsense type of woman. I don’t know what Deb would do if she ever stopped skydiving.”
One of the highlights of Lovegrove’s skydiving career came in 2009 south
of the border.
The Jump for the Cause in California is a skydiving event that raised close to $1 million for breast cancer research. As part of the challenge, 181 women from more than 31 countries joined together in a group formation dive, breaking the previous formation record of 151 participants. They spent nearly an entire week together trying to nail the formation, which required all 181 jumpers to be connected either hand-to-hand or
“We finally got it on the final day just before sunset,” she says. “When we found out we erupted into a cheer … it was a really sentimental moment.”
“It was pretty cool when we found out our 181 Woman’s World Record photo was featured in the Sports Illustrated ‘Pictures of the Year’ edition, for best sports photos of 2009! That was also the time my Dad ran out and bought a dozen copies to show off at his work,” laughed Lovegrove.
While the adrenaline rush is always exciting, she says it’s the camaraderie of the sport that keeps her coming back. Over the years, she’s met many other skydiving enthusiasts who share her passion for the sport and have become like family, she says.
Lovegrove also credits skydiving with keeping her mind and body healthy. Having worked in technology and marketing in the Kanata tech park for more than a decade, she says having an outlet where she can forget all of her stress is extremely beneficial.
“It’s one way to get your mind off work – put yourself into a situation where you have to think of something else, like ‘open your parachute and save your life,’” she says. “It keeps my senses tuned in. I feel an incredible sense of freedom out there.”
Former KNBA executive director Jenna Sudds worked alongside Lovegrove for several years and says it was easy to tell when her colleague was returning from a weekend of skydiving.
“She works really hard, but then she plays really hard,” jokes Sudds. “She always came back in a great mood, really energized and ready to take on whatever that week had in store.”
After more than two decades of skydiving, Lovegrove admits with some sadness that several of her longtime friends are hanging up their jumpsuits for good.
However, Lovegrove says she has no plans of quitting anytime soon.
“It’s taught me so much about the importance of friendship, staying focused and remaining calm under pressure,” she says. “I’m just not quite ready to pull the final parachute.”