Truth – “Fake it until you make it” doesn’t work at the Olympics. Lack of preparation and training will be exposed. Experience can go a long way to fill in the gaps – but there is a reason that the best way to feel at the Olympics is ready. Confidence, swagger and opportunities reside in those who are ready. That is the truth.
Dare – I dare you to believe that you can be the best in the World. Done that already? I dare you to do it again. That challenge is a pressure that weighs on every Olympian’s chest. The best part is – they choose it to be that way. We learned a long time ago that there is no courage without fear.
The moment where we test ourselves against our goals can be described as a Can I? Will I? moment – it is a moment of controlled fear. In the flash of that moment we present ourselves with question – we are fully aware of all that makes us “normal” and we try to remember all that makes us ready to do something special – and we ask – Can I do this? And more importantly Will I do this? This is where an Olympian is dared to step up – or step out.
Consequences – This is why the Olympics are different: one moment every 4 years, sometimes one opportunity in a lifetime. The pursuit of Olympic success is more passion than pay; a young lifetime of committed time, health and injury management and constant dedication to the smallest detail. All of which is gambled against a cadre of others who are just as committed. At the start line – every athlete goes ‘all-in’.
This gamble and the reality of this all or nothing consequence is why we catch our breath when an athlete we’ve never heard of before, from a country we’re not from and in a sport we don’t follow falls that we catch our breath. This is why our heart races as our Canadian Team athletes chase fractions of points, seconds and scoring opportunities. We know that all the emotion at the finish line has more to do with all the speed bumps; the trials and tribulations of getting there as much as the result.
I went to 3 Olympics as an athlete. It seems increasingly impossible that I had five opportunities to test myself and surreal that I (we) won three times (twice in ’92, again in ’96), took bronze (’96) in the fourth and had to withdraw with and injury (2000) as my end.
God I love watching the Olympics now. I am so inspired watching these athletes – my peers now – rise up to the Truth, Dare and Consequences of their Olympic Can I? Will I? moments.
What could possible be interesting to watch when they are done? Bring on the PanAm’s, Bring on Rio.
It was impossible for me to keep up with all that I did for the 7 days that I was in Sochi… I’m home now and trying to digest all that happened and all that continues to go on.
My highlights from being in Sochi didn’t occur being at the competitions. It was incredible watching Alex Bilodeau win his 2nd Gold medal and Mikael Kingsbury show himself as the heir apparent in men’s moguls by winning the silver but being a spectator almost never makes my heart sing. Being at the Women’s snowboardcross, watching Maelle Ricker (dnf) and Dominque Maltais (silver) race 8 years after I saw them race at the Turin 2006 Olympics was special as I felt like I was bringing my mentor experience full circle, but being in the stands watching is never the same as having a conversation with someone.
I had lovely and meaningful conversations with athletes who were about to, or had just finished competing in, figure skating, speed skating, luge, moguls, bobsled, curling and hockey. Here is the gist of three that stick out;
Maxime Dufour-Lapointe – She brought a few tears to my eyes when she told me how my email messages had been important to her. I was blown away as she told me about her conviction to qualify for these Olympics. “I wasn’t ready to do this before Vancouver, (where her younger sister Chloe was 5th) but my journey has brought me here. I made a decision that I was going to do it. I even told my sisters “This year I am going to put me (her preparation and performance) first.” Her sisters, Justine (gold) and Chloe (silver) were surprised that she felt she needed to articulate this – of course she should! – but it was a definite change to Maxime’s mindset which she stuck to all year. It certainly worked for her. Not only did she qualify for the Olympics, but advanced past the qualifications and placed 12th. She is tapped into her ambition for sport now and remains driven and committed for more!
Tessa Virtue and I met for a coffee two days before she and Scott would begin competing. We talked about a lot of things; some gossip that had nothing to do with sport and some that did. It’s common knowledge now that their training environment and situation with respect to their coach was incredibly stressful and I knew that these two were so looking forward to being done with all of that. They are ready to move on from competitive skating. We talked about “graduating” from the preparation part of their career ‘now’. Not waiting until they are finished their competitive performance to cut the cord and move away from all their stressors. Tessa told me that their goal was to come off the ice happy. I asked that she add to that goal – to go ON to the ice happy. I couldn’t see how they could come OFF the ice happy if they hadn’t gone ON to the ice happy. The Olympics don’t change who you are; they might bring ‘you’ out and magnify it, but what you were before the Olympics, you will be after. It was a concept that connected with her.
I had an afternoon with Heather Moyse where we simply hung out and explored the Olympic village. She was so calm that I almost forgot that she too was on a quest to repeat as Olympic Champion. Earlier in the year, I had exchanges with Kaillie, Tessa and Scott and to some extent Alex where we discussed that the path to winning a 2nd gold isn’t always as much fun. Expectations of an Olympic Champion, by themselves and those of every around them are different. Wins en route to your first Olympic Gold are joyful celebrations. Wins en route to the second gold are often covered with quite a bit of relief. Heather’s mind set was the perfect one to manage stress and expectations. She was so committed to the little details of what she wanted to do – that she didn’t need to worry about the big ones. Her laser focus was not just a great push start record, but a great initiation of movement, the fastest ‘hit’ on the sled. Control the controllables. Focus on the little things and the big things take care of themselves.
On Sunday, Kaillie Humphries made us a coffee in the athletes lounge. While we both agreed it wasn’t the best coffee…but it was a wicked chat. Kaillie was super comfortable and confident with her preparation and her ability to steer the best course. Before I left, I sat with the two of them and simply told them how incredible their energy was, focused for sure – but calm, confident and trusting in each other. They were obviously ready. As part of our conversation, I shared with them my advice to Tessa – that if she wanted to come off the ice happy she should make sure that she goes on the ice happy.
Shortly after Kaillie and Heather won their repeat gold I got a txt from Kaillie. “Start happy, leave happy!… that made a huge difference” Apparently going on to the ice happy had resonated well with them.
Being at the Olympics and being a spectator is great, but being part of someone’s preparation for them, even if it’s just one little bit of it… is amazing.
There are no easy ways to get to Sochi, so I was pretty pleased that my route was Pearson-Istanbul-Sochi; even with a 9 hour lay over I thought I’d scored. The Star Alliance lounge in Istanbul is one of the nicest I’ve been to and I knew it had a movie room and a huge wall with a bank of 9 TV’s. If I was going to be in transit during the Olympics – and particularly the final of Team Figure skating – I would be able to watch all the action all day.
You see, while I love being AT the Games, it’s very hard to know all the results and stories while you are there. I miss watching the profiles, hearing the post competition interviews, and the highlight montages that are always done so well. I left after the opening ceremonies and had gotten really used to watching it all.
I was pretty shocked to find that Turkish Airlines wouldn’t turn any of their TV’s to the Olympics. But if the best rule for a great Olympic performance is “have a plan, but don’t expect anything to go according to plan” then this was just another opportunity to put the rule to action. I called home and Deanah was able to put her computer on a stool, on an ottoman in front of our TV and Adam Parfitt (I was travelling with him to Sochi) and I streamed the CBC Olympic coverage via FaceTime for what seemed like hours. It was a pretty great way to start the trip, when some of the athletes that I love to chat with won a silver medal.
We landed in Sochi at 5am, and we’re at our hotel at 7am. Showered, had breakfast and walking by 10
10:30am – walk to Olympic park, validate spectator pass – This is one of many unique extra layers of Russian bureaucracy / security
11:30 – get to Canada Olympic House- An incredible resource for friends and family of the Canadian Olympic team. It is a meeting/resting/eating/celebrating space right in the heart of Olympic Park. It’s also the only place we can see the CBC coverage.
12:00 meet up with moms and dads of so many of the athletes I work with – they are all so proud!!
Meet up with our women’s snowboard cross. I’ve known Maelle and Dominque since 2006 in Turino- they have always been strong but they have been so dominant in the last few seasons. Even with her wrist in a cast Maelle is set to go with her trademark big smile and Dom – well, she feels so prepared and so ready – I could feel her energy radiating from her. That will be a great event to watch and I’m stoked that I have tickets.
2:00 watch men’s short track 1500m competition, where Charles Hamelin was inspiring as he controlled his races and took the gold in such a controlled fashion – (it’s rare to watch short track and get a sense that anyone has control!!). Awesome to watch with a group spirited Canadians.
3:00 – take a train to Khosta, where the Canadian team has a Performance Centre (an off site location of accommodation, offices and training and technical facilities)
4:00 – take a train to Rosa Khutor, have 7pm dinner at McDonalds (I never eat the stuff unless I’m at the Olympics! which always seems kind of backwards!)
9pm – watch the men’s moguls competition! How incredible was that! The Russians were excited because they had a guy in the top 5… But at one point it looked like the other 4 would be Canadians! Just incredible to watch Alex and Mikael take the gold and silver. Its such a different emotional journey to win again… I really appreciated the work and pressure that Alex was under. Also pretty cool to watch it with Adam vanKoeverden. He’s getting pretty inspired here to win again in Rio!
12am train back to the Coast
2am bed. What a packed first day.