This is Your Story: Tokyo2020+1

An Open Letter to Canada’s Tokyo 2020 hopefuls: This Is Your Story

One year to go – again. Tokyo 2020 is now Tokyo 2020+1

It was a summer no one expected. The Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed, athletes had to put a pause on training and the future seemed scary and uncertain.

With exactly one year to go before the start of the Games, I penned this letter to Tokyo 2020 hopefuls:

“I can’t help but wonder: What is today? Is it a recognition of a missed year? Or a celebration of one year out? Either way, it’s part of your story.

Everything that has (or hasn’t) happened in the last six months and what will happen in the coming year, is part of your story.

What story? Every Olympian has a story, it usually has a lesson in it, and they tell it in different ways:

1. Their VERY SHORT story is of a moment during the Games.

2. Their SHORT story spans the Opening to Closing Ceremony and includes both Olympic competition and the Olympic city. (A bit of sport, a bit of culture, a bit of a party).

3. Their REAL story is longer, much, much longer. It’s a detailed, behind the scenes tale of persistence, determination, effort and resilience. It happens in isolation as well as before crowds and includes tears, pain, joy and celebration.

Most (all?!) Olympic stories include tales about how solid plans got disrupted and then how they were assessed, recalculated and continued. Think of an athlete you know or even someone you only know of. Do you think they got through their journey on a direct path? Not a chance.

So here you are. You had a goal and a plan. You were sent home. Your plan was put on hold.

More accurately, your plan was thrown in the garbage but your goal was not. However, your story continues. You’ve come up with a plan and you, and your team, are figuring it out. This is what you have always done – figure things out and thrive.

How you figure this out IS YOUR STORY.

As it always has been with sport, we can’t predict the end. Win or lose: that’s always been the game of it. One year from now, five years from now, or 20 years from now, you’ll be sharing your story. This (incredibly unique) story.

Your 2020 Olympic story is being written by you. It includes all the work and competition that led up to the global COVID-19 shutdown, it includes everything that you’ve been doing since February and it will include everything that will come in the next year.

Team Canada takes pictures as they arrive during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games. COC Photo/Mark Blinch

No matter what happens, continue to figure out a story that you’ll be proud to share. Continue to believe that you are capable of more. Continue to build a better, stronger and healthier you.

Many great stories are emerging during this time. Recently, Moh Ahmed shattered the Canadian 5,000-metre record to crack the all-time top-10 list (congrats, Moh!). Andre De Grasse posted a winning time of 9.69 seconds in the 100 yard event at the Weltklasse meet that was reduced and spread out due to COVID-19.

Erica Wiebe started her Executive MBA Americas program at Queen’s/Cornell. I saw Meaghan BenfeitoPierre-Luc Poulin and Joelle Bekhazi share photos of returning to training in what has literally been months (keep those coming!).

Jacqueline Simoneau represented her graduating class at Vanier College as Valedictorian. And Pam Buisa, supported by Josiah Morra and Charity Williams, organized a peace rally for Black Lives in Victoria.

This is just a snapshot and as Chef de Mission for Team Canada, I couldn’t be prouder of the story that you’re telling so far.

To those who have not yet been able to return to the field of play, know that the team behind the team is working hard to find solutions for you.

And to all of the athletes, coaches and support team who have been on the frontlines through all of this, THANK YOU!

So, what are you adding to your story today? – Marnie

Celebrating Canada Day, Team Canada and you.

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Happy Canada Day!

It’s July 1, 2020.  In any other Olympic year, we would be counting down the next 24 days with laser focus. You would be in your prime: ready. Team Canada would be pumped. But here we are – your preparation and performance on hold and the Maple Leaf that you so proudly wear in competition around the world remains tucked away, for now.

Even so, it’s never been more important for you to feel the strength and support that comes from being Canadian and part of Team Canada. There is the strength and support that you contribute to Team Canada and the strength and support that you receive from being one of its members. As Canadians, we embrace diversity, inclusion and community values. Together we are like individual threads that wind together to create the strength of a cable; collectively the strengths of some support others.

As a young athlete, I realized that I’d developed a deep connection to our flag. For so long it epitomized my dreams. I admit, I talked to it – sharing my ambitions and fears. In training, it kept me motivated and in competition, it kept me calm and focused.  

At my first Opening Ceremony, I saw our flag, with its bright red borders, crisp white centre and bold Maple Leaf. It was scattered around the massive Olympic stadium. It’s amazing how our flag stands out among the hundreds of others. It’s beautiful, powerful and distinct. Seeing it, even so far from home, made me feel at ease. It was amazing to have that same flag on both my uniform and oars when I raced.

Years ago, I wrote, “The Canadian flag represents millions, but when I look at it, I see it as a lone sentry; it has my back, it stands on guard for me.” What I was trying to do when I wrote that piece was help athletes diffuse the pressure that they can face if they assume the expectations of millions of Canadians on their Olympic performance. It’s funny how time changes perspective because that’s not how I see it these days. Now, I see the potential that we generate when we act together. I don’t want a lone sentry. I want a community.  

Everything going on right now proves to us that when we’re standing up for each other, we are stronger together. The millions of Canadians behind the flag are also Team Canada. When we do it right, we are millions of sentries, friends and allies.

This is what I choose to celebrate on Canada Day. It’s not just our incredible geography that makes our country special. It’s our team, it’s the people – it’s you.  You are leaders, allies, and community builders. You are Team Canada when a strong and united Team Canada is most needed. Thank you.

Take pride that you are someone who gets to wear our Maple Leaf and represent our country. Whether you have been named to the team or are an Olympic hopeful, I hope you enjoy your role leading your community and that you also know that there is a massive Team Canada behind you, caring for you.

It’s pretty awesome to see the return-to-training pictures and videos that you are posting. From Will Crothers and the rowers carrying their boats to the water wearing masks, to Erica Wiebe and Danielle Lappage and wrestlers actually getting to grapple (in a field) to Jenn Abel and the divers back at the pool. Yay!

Sport by sport, location by location, you’re all figuring it out. 👏👏

Happy Canada Day. As your Chef de Mission, with countless others, I’ve got your back.  Go Canada Go.


You received this email because you are on the long list, as an athlete, coach, support staff or mission staff, for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. I welcome replies and questions. Agree with me or disagree with me I’m happy to hear it – but most importantly – if this starts a conversation with your teammates, your coach – or yourself – about what you are doing or need to be doing – then we’re on our way towards MORE

Bonne fête du Canada!

Nous sommes le 1er juillet 2020. Dans n’importe quelle autre année olympique, nous serions concentrés à faire le compte à rebours des 24 prochains jours. Vous seriez au sommet de votre forme, prêts à relever le défi. Équipe Canada serait gonflée à bloc. Ce n’est malheureusement pas ce qui se passe. Votre préparation et votre performance sont en pause et la feuille d’érable que vous portez si fièrement dans les compétitions à travers le monde entier demeure bien rangée, pour l’instant.

Malgré tout, c’est plus important que jamais que vous puissiez ressentir toute la force et le soutien qui découlent du fait d’être Canadien(ne) et de faire partie d’Équipe Canada. Il y a la force et le soutien que vous apportez à Équipe Canada et la force et le soutien que vous recevez en étant l’un(e) de membres de l’équipe. En tant que Canadiens, nous embrassons la diversité, l’inclusion et les valeurs communautaires. Ensemble, nous sommes comme des fils individuels qui s’entremêlent pour créer une corde solide. Collectivement, les forces des uns soutiennent les autres.

Quand j’étais une jeune athlète, je me suis rendue compte que j’avais développé un lien profond avec notre drapeau. Pendant si longtemps, il a incarné mes rêves. Je l’avoue, je lui ai même parlé. Je lui ai partagé mes ambitions et mes craintes. À l’entraînement, il m’a permis de rester motivée et en compétition, il m’a permis de rester calme et concentrée. 

À l’occasion de ma première cérémonie d’ouverture, j’ai aperçu notre drapeau, avec ses bordures rouge éclatant, son centre blanc vif et sa feuille d’érable bien en vue. Je le voyais un peu partout dans l’immense Stade olympique. C’est si beau de voir comment notre drapeau se distingue parmi les centaines d’autres. Il est beau, puissant et distinct. Même si j’étais loin de la maison, je me suis sentie confortable en le regardant. C’était incroyable d’avoir ce même drapeau sur mon uniforme et sur mes rames lors de mes courses.

Il y a quelques années, j’ai écrit ceci : « Le drapeau canadien représente des millions de personnes, mais quand je le regarde, je le vois comme une sentinelle solitaire ; il assure mes arrières, il monte la garde pour moi. » Ce que j’essayais de faire quand j’ai écrit cet article, c’était d’aider les athlètes à atténuer la pression qu’ils peuvent ressentir s’ils s’attardent aux attentes des millions de Canadiens face à leurs performances olympiques. C’est drôle comme le temps change notre perspective parce que je ne le vois plus de cette manière aujourd’hui. Maintenant, je vois le potentiel que nous générons quand nous agissons ensemble. Je ne veux pas d’une sentinelle solitaire. Je veux plutôt une communauté.

Tout ce qui se passe en ce moment nous prouve que lorsque nous nous tenons les uns pour les autres, nous sommes plus forts. Les millions de Canadiens derrière le drapeau font aussi partie d’Équipe Canada. Quand nous faisons les choses de la bonne manière, nous sommes des millions de sentinelles, d’amis et d’alliés.

C’est ce que je choisis de célébrer en cette fête du Canada. Ce n’est pas seulement notre incroyable géographie qui rend notre pays spécial. C’est notre équipe, ce sont les gens, c’est vous. Vous êtes des chefs de file, des alliés et des bâtisseurs de communautés. Vous êtes Équipe Canada au moment où nous avons tous besoin de voir une équipe canadienne forte et unie. Je vous en remercie.

Soyez fiers d’être celui ou celle qui porte notre feuille d’érable et qui représente notre pays. Que vous ayez été nommé au sein de l’équipe ou que vous soyez un(e) espoir olympique, j’espère que vous appréciez votre rôle de leader dans votre communauté et que vous savez aussi qu’il y a toute une équipe canadienne derrière vous, qui se soucie de vous.

C’est impressionnant de voir les photos et les vidéos de retour à l’entraînement que vous publiez. Je pense à Will Crothers et les rameurs qui portent leurs bateaux jusqu’à l’eau avec des masques, à Erica Wiebe et Danielle Lappage et les lutteurs qui s’affrontent réellement (dans un champ) ou à Jenn Abel et les plongeurs qui sont de retour à la piscine. Wow!

Un sport à la fois, un endroit à la fois, vous êtes en train de trouver des solutions! Et pour cela, je vous applaudis. 👏👏

Bonne fête du Canada. En tant que chef de mission, je me joins à de nombreuses autres personnes pour vous dire que nous sommes derrière vous ! Go Canada Go.


Vous avez reçu ce courriel parce que votre nom figure sur la liste préliminaire comme athlète, entraîneur(e), membre du personnel de soutien ou du personnel de mission pour les Jeux olympiques de Tokyo 2020. Je serai heureuse de recevoir vos réponses et vos questions. Que vous soyez d’accord avec moi ou non, je serai ravie de l’entendre, mais plus important encore, si cela déclenche une conversation avec vos coéquipiers, votre entraîneur(e), ou vous-même, sur ce que vous faites ou devez faire, nous sommes alors en route vers quelque chose de PLUS.

Today is today. Make it a good one!

For a novel virus – it certainly feels like the novelty has worn off. I’d love to be saying, “way to go!”, that after 50+ days we’re almost done… but, as our collective actions continue to save tens of thousands of Canadian lives, we just don’t know when or how our stay-at-home advisories will be lifted. 

It may feel that your 2020 plans are on hold or even squashed entirely – they aren’t; but you will need to adapt them to fit 2021. I can imagine that all of this waiting-to-start is not easy; on your body or your brain, you have never trained to wait. (I have often said that waiting to race was way more stressful than actually racing.)   

Recently, Canadian Space Astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield spoke to a group of carded athletes about managing uncertainty. One of the first things he suggested was that we need to accept the new place that we are in, and more to the point, the new place YOU are in. Once you are over the shock that the plan that you had has changed; be it a mental plan, physical plan, or action plan – you need to accept that things have changed, that you are in a new place AND that you need to move forward. 

But how do you do that when your long-term planning is stalled? 

One recommendation from Chris was to recognize that we are responsible for “growing the inertia of our own contentment”.  That is to say… it’s up to you to make yourself happy.  As we adjust our plans to fit the new place that we are in, he recommended that we create new objectives. These new objectives don’t all need to be connected to your BIG plans, but can give you a few ‘wins’ in the short and mid-term. 

Guitar, yoga, knitting, reading, school work, family, zooming, languages, core strength, sketching, writing, coding, cooking, inverted dressing, floor-is-lava-ing….Pursue your passions and/or curiosities. While it’s challenging to work on large motor skills right now, use the time you have to develop small ones.

In the “before times” your daily routine was focused on preparing for very specific goals in the future. Then, your “todays” were a tool to get you to tomorrow. In the “now times” you need only focus on today. 

Long-term, back to sport planning will come – talk to your coaches and team leaders for direction, but for now, accept that we remain in a complex environment. Municipal, provincial, national and international decisions will be different depending on situations and strategies. 

Right now – Let TODAY be the goal. Continue to find ways make today feel like a good day. 

Cheers to you – We are all Team Canada. 


Game ON! Seize the opportunity. Reconnect with play.

A countdown clock displays the remaining days until the new start date for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The opening ceremony will be held July 23, 2021 after this year’s Games was postponed last week due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

“And the clock is reset: when 116 days becomes 480. #Tokyo2020NE!”

– Yesterday’s tweet from Rosie MacLennan, two time Olympic Champion

So now we know when. The Tokyo Olympic Games have officially been rescheduled for July 23 – August  8, 2021. These Games will officially be known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games… but I’m a fan of the meme “Tokyo 202ONE”! (apologies that this doesn’t translate well).

la version français suite

Over the last week (has it only been 1 week?!) there have been many thoughtful interviews, social media and blog posts by Olympians; Olympic hopefuls, veterans and retired. It’s been a roller coaster. You’ve all expressed your heartfelt emotions; utter disappointment, anger, resilience, relief and through it all – understanding. You have all understood that as part of our bigger Team Canada, 37 million strong, we all need to be part of flattening the curve. 

“Instead of pushing back on what life has brought on all of us, I made the commitment to accept what is and cherish what lies ahead. Training is what keeps me focused and what makes me feel alive. I have found a way to stay in shape at a slower pace in the comfort of my home. Right now, that’s all I need.”

Jennifer Abel, Olympic Bronze Medalist, three-time Olympian in Diving

World Champion swimmer, Maggie MacNeil finds herself back in her parents’ (now heated!) backyard pool and posted “To the little pool that got me into swimming… now it’s helping to keep the dream alive during this crazy time”

Same for Sage Watson, Olympian in 400m hurdles, who is back on a family ranch in Medicine Hat. “This is where I first started running when I was 6 years old and it’s so fitting that I’m continuing my Olympic goals here at home.”

Lately, your creativity and humour are also shining through. 

Softball player Emma Carr has taken to bench pressing her sofa and Skylar Park, who has qualified for her first Olympics in Taekwondo, has her three brothers to use as sparring partners in her basement! Another athlete headed to his first Olympics, Sport Climber Sean McColl, has taken to posting a #dailychallenge – his push-ups done on cutting boards come with a warning! Olympic Champion in Big Air Snowboard and two-time Olympian, Sebastien Toutant’s posts seem to have inspired skateboarder Annie Guglia to have fun working on her in-home balance and agility.

As time passes this won’t be easy. The novelty of being creative and training in isolation will wear off. All of you face unique challenges in trying to stay in the world-class shape that you’ve worked so hard for. Facilities are scarce, to say the least, but there is an opportunity here. Reconnect with the joy and play that lit your fire for your sport.

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