By: Lauren Pelley Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Nov 07 2014
Marnie McBean can still vividly recount her first gold medal Olympic win.
It was 1992, at the Barcelona Olympics, and McBean had just been through seven minutes of gruelling rowing — her heart racing at 204 beats per minute, with enough lactic acid buildup to make a normal person crumple up and cry for the rest of the day. She remembers standing on the podium alongside her rowing partner Kathleen Heddle, listening to the Canadian anthem with a gold medal for the pair event around her neck.
“It was at that moment, I was like holy crap, this is the Olympics,” says McBean. “And I just won it — we just won it.”
It’s a story the Olympic champion has told countless times — and it’s a story many Canadians remember well. But at a coffee shop near her Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. home on Thursday, McBean told a different one: the story of how, a decade after that gold medal, she realized she was gay and started a new chapter in her life.
“It wasn’t ever part of my sports story, not because I was denying it, but I never investigated it,” McBean says.
She’ll be sharing her story in a keynote talk on Saturday at Game Changers, a one-day symposium co-hosted by the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee, CIBC and the City of Toronto.
The event will be fostering discussion on the importance of diversity and inclusion in sport, featuring elite athletes like former Toronto Raptor Jamaal Magloire, Olympic and Pan Am hurdler Perdita Felicien and Paralympian wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy.
McBean says investigating her sexuality wasn’t part of her experience as a young athlete, and it wasn’t until the early 2000s that she realized she was gay. Read on…
Recently, I found myself recalling one particular evening a few years ago. I can’t remember if my friends and I were celebrating something or if it was just another night out, but we had gone downtown for a fun evening. We probably went for dinner between 8 and 10:30 and then went out for drinks and dancing. At about 3:30am we found ourselves at Fran’s Diner having – oh I don’t know – probably something like gravy laden open-faced turkey sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches. (That sounds about right for 3:30 in the morning!).
Here’s the part I remember clearly. The waitress was one of those classic diner waitresses who likely had been working there since well before I was born. As she was about to take my order she took a moment, looked me in the eyes, and frankly said, “Sweetheart, I don’t know what your friends have been saying to you all night, but you’ve got some spinach in your teeth.”
My friends keeled over laughing. Turns out they had been looking at the spinach in my teeth all night. At first it was just spinach, not a big deal. Then as time passed they each kept expecting the others to pipe in and reveal what was becoming an awkward issue. Then, as time passed, they didn’t know how to bring it up – as if it was getting more embarrassing for them to acknowledge that they hadn’t said anything.
As for me – OMG! We had met so many people! We were having a great night so I’m sure all evening I was smiling a big toothy spinachy-smile. I was mortified, not to mention super annoyed with my friends. Where was the trust? Where was the respect? Read on…
Waking up early – and I mean really early – is a normal part of a rower’s day. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that rowers are good at getting up early or are naturally inclined to like it. The truth is that they know how to get used to, or more accurately how to get familiar with, what an early routine –(an uncomfortably early routine!) – feels like. As it becomes a habit, it’s easy for a rower to see all the advantages and opportunities of the early mornings and barely notice that seeing blurry 5’s or even 4’s as a first digit of time is not entirely normal.
Here’s what getting up really early taught me about establishing new routines:
Waking up early one day, or even every day for one week is not a routine it’s a novelty. Doing something for 1 week is Read on…
For the longest time I was in a routine of writing. At a minimum I would post something on the first of every month. I had fun keeping the self-imposed deadline since it meant I had to find a topic that had me feeling curious and inspired every 30 days (which comes around way faster than you’d figure!). I had an intended audience and I knew what voice I wanted to write in so my curiosity had some guidance. Those posts were almost always ‘mentor messages’ that I wrote considering athletes who were preparing for the upcoming Olympics. The last Olympics finished in February, the next aren’t for another 2 years, and that’s not my official roll anymore anyway.
My last post was in June and then I chose to take July and August off as a summer break. Now it’s mid-way through September and I’m so far out of my routine that I feel stuck.
I have been struggling a bit because if I’m not writing to an Olympic team who am I writing too? I get stuff in my head all the time but how do I want to frame it and make it purposeful? I don’t want to just ramble; I want to make a point. I miss writing but where, and why, does my new routine start?
I needed help to get me started again, but asking for the help was a bit… tough. Tough for no other reason than my ego was aware that most of the stuff that I’ve written about in the last 5 years was exactly the kind of advice that I needed to get me going. I’m supposed to be the expert here. I write often about being brave and bold enough to do something: to start, to just get at your goal-achieving path by starting with a simple small step. There I was, bogged down by the “doctor heal thy self” conundrum. It was so easy to be terrible at taking my own (good!) advice.
To get the help I needed, I knew what I had to do. Read on…