Officer of the Order of Canada


Order of Canada CeremonyIn May I received a call from the office of the Governor General of Canada, David Johnson, informing me that I would be invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. It is an incredible honour to receive. I was to keep it confidential until it was announced for July 1 – but of course I told Deanah and my parents right away; Who wouldn’t! Then – as I do with most things – I researched it.

The Order of Canada was established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system and recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country. The Order of Canada’s motto is DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country).

Order of Canada, Officer

I was to be given the 2nd highest of three levels of the Order. This allows me to put the initials O.C. after my name. The Officer of the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.


Then I dug into the numbers…  Continue reading

Being a Role Model – with pride

When asked if I wanted to be on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s float at the Toronto Pride Parade, I found myself, not for the first time, questioning what it really means to be a role model.

school presentationThe first time I found myself considering if I was a role model I was 24 years old, a World and Olympic Champion, and talking about believing in yourself and being brave enough to chase your dreams. Just back from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, I was talking to a group of grade 9 and 10 students about the ups and downs that preceded winning my 2 new shiny gold medals. Amid all the typical/easy questions like, “Are they made of real gold?”, “Where do you keep your medals?” or “How old were you when you started rowing?”…came a zinger. A student stood up, looked at me quite earnestly and asked, “Do you see yourself as a role model?”

I wanted to laugh – me? (Ha!) Sure I had won a race or two but a role model? I was just a rower; and when not rowing I thought of myself as really ‘normal’ and often lazy. I knew all of my flaws; I knew how much better I thought I could be – a better rower, a better friend, a better person. My inner-voice answered ‘no way’ to the role model question. But before I answered aloud I thought it through. What is a role model? Who were mine?

To me, role models demonstrate behaviours that we hope that we will demonstrate in the same, often challenging, situations. I couldn’t think of one person that was my all-encompassing role model – but I could think of many people and the different things that they had accomplished or said that I thought were pretty cool.

I’ve seen acts of focus, strength, kindness, bravery, generosity, humour, intelligence and thoughtfulness that have inspired me. I have tremendous admiration for those who have built and demonstrate strong, loving and lasting relationships. I want and hope for all of that. I watch people who demonstrate these traits and, when possible, I try to emulate them.   Continue reading

After the rush of a great conference

IMG_4924Recently I was part of a conference that the Canadian Olympic Committee hosts as part of the Team’s preparation for the Olympics. Other that the fact that most of the attendees are young athletes who are the best in the world at what they do – this conference is no different than the countless conferences that I have had the opportunity to speak at over the last 15 years.

The idea is that a group of people, with similar (not necessarily the same) tasks come together to learn, be inspired, network and with some luck have fun. Talk to anyone who’s just back from something like a TED, Oprah or Incredible Lives Conference and their life is about to change! They are on fire!

Kick starts are amazing – but we can’t expect that kind of rush every day/week/month. Ultimately we need to be our own somebody, our own key note speaker…our own source of inspiration. This month, in my regular message to athletes preparing for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Team, I address that kind of amazing rush and the importance of using the team that is around you (close and far) to help you keep your own fire burning.

The OES Sugar Rush – After the conference

<La version française suit>

The Olympic Excellence Series Conference came to a successful conclusion on May 12th. The feedback that I received directly from you was that you had an awesome time! Inspiration, motivation, team bonding – shared experiences and emotions…wow- what a rush– you are part of a TEAM! What a huge relief. What a huge motivator.

It’s true that when you compete you will, to varying degrees, have to do it alone – but, waiting to begin that performance can be nerve wracking which can be de-railing. That’s why feeling part of a larger TEAM is so comforting and integral to your Olympic preparation. Your TEAM can help keep you on the rails until it’s time for you to do your thing. Continue reading