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Canadian luger Arianne Jones gets lighter in the head for children with cancer

11/01/2012 06:31 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
CALGARY - Arianne Jones has less hair to tuck under her luge helmet now. In fact, the national team slider had to get new head protection to accommodate her shorter locks.

A day before departing for Sochi, Russia, the 2014 Olympic hopeful had young cancer survivors and friends take turns chopping off her long hair Thursday. Angel Hair For Kids will turn her donation into a wig for an Alberta youngster who loses hair during cancer treatment.

Jones also raised $2,000 in pledges for Kids Cancer Care, an organization that funds camps, research, hospital and scholarship programs.

"I had to get a new helmet because I use my hair, I tie it up in the back and it makes my helmet a bit tighter and fit better," Jones explained before the scissors came out at the Ice House.

"Cutting off my hair, my helmet wasn't going to fit anymore so I actually had to ship over in my box already a new, smaller helmet so it stays on."

After crashing in a World Cup race in her hometown of Calgary last year, Jones wandered around the finishing dock at Canada Olympic Park feeling sorry for herself.

She struck up a conversation with 12-year-old Sam Judson, a luger on Canada's development team, because she noticed Judson was missing her trademark long, blond hair.

"She told me she'd decided to cut off her hair for Kids Cancer Care," Jones recalled. "I was really inspired that this young girl was so brave and cut off her hair so other girls could have that joy of having a wig and having their hair back when battling cancer.

"It brought me up from how down I was feeling in that moment. It inspired me to do just the same."

The Canadian luge team heads to Sochi on Friday for a week of training on the same track they'll race on for medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The 2012-13 World Cup season opens Nov. 24-25 in Innsbruck, Austria.

While Alex Gough is the star of Canada's luge team with several international medals, the 22-year-old Jones posted six top-10 finishes in World Cups last season, which was her second year on tour. Jones got into the sport in 2002 when she attended a recruitment camp at COP.

"Heading into Sochi, it will be our first time on the track and I'm really, really excited to get over there," Jones said. "I had a great season last year and I'm hoping to build on that.

"I had one top-six result and pretty much stayed in the top 10 the majority of the World Cup. I'm hoping to stay there and keep pushing those girls and head into that top-six area and stand on that podium."

Judson had the honour of the first snips Thursday, once Jones's hair was tied off and measured to ensure 30 centimetres in length would come off.

"I was wondering what she was going through mentally because when I cut it off it wasn't a big deal," Judson said. "It was just short hair, but I know a lot people are really attached to their hair."

Chris Rowell, a developmental team slider and cancer survivor, took a turn with the scissors. The 13-year-old had a cancerous kidney removed at age six.

Second-year nursing student Samantha Andres lost her leg in repeated bouts with the disease. Jones's gesture makes victims of cancer feel less alone, she said.

"For athletes to do this and to take the time out of their training schedules to do events like this and to show they truly do care, it means a lot," Andres said.

"The money they've raised is going to help send kids to camp so they can forget about cancer for a week. The hair is going to make wigs so they can maybe forget about some parts of having cancer."

When it was all over, Jones was left with an uneven bob, which she intended to get "cleaned up" at a salon later in the day.

"I have the ups and downs of everyday training in luge, but there's some kids out there with the ups and downs of fighting for their lives," Jones pointed out.

"Their stories are so amazing and they're such amazing souls. I'm going to take their inspiration and passion for life with me this year. I won't forget that."

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