Be Extraordinary – Western Alumni Gazette – A chat with Marnie

A chat with Marnie about Performance and Winning

by Jason Winders, MES’16, PhD’16 | October 13, 2017

One of the most decorated athletes in Canadian history – most notably as a three-time Olympic gold medalist – Marnie McBean, BA’97, LLD’03, shares what she learned from a life on the water at Western and beyond.

My ultimate thing was not to win, but to get better. Getting better all the time meant attention to detail, to learning, to figuring things out. And all that – that attention to things – took care of winning.

I was not a star athlete. I always made teams. But I was never the star. I was not a scorer or a playmaker. I was a grinder who moved things along. But I have come to understand that everyone is excellent at something; it is the lucky few who find what that is.

I had great water feel. I wasn’t a great rower at the beginning, but somebody saw something about me on the water. And that was me – it was being on the water, how rowing boats moved, knowing how a team moved together. I loved it from the first day.

Get a feel for your water. I cannot hit a three-pointer. I don’t have that kind of coordination. But I have water feel.

When you find that thing you are great at, it is easy to put time into it. It will always feel like a choice. It will always feel like you are choosing to be more. Continue reading

What Super Heroes Don’t Tell You


Speaking at TedXBelieving that we can achieve success and big, seemingly infinite, goals can seem impossible for us “normal*” people. For the likes of Super Hero Buzz Lightyear, who will readily leap “To INFINITY and Beyond!!!” it’s a breeze. How do they do that?!

This weekend I spoke at a TedX event at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. I titled my presentation “What Super Heroes Don’t Tell You” and had a lot of fun delivering my message.

I used a few big-event examples from my rowing career that tended to push my ego to believing that I was special. It’s easy to think that crossing an Olympic finish line in 1st place can make a person believe in their own Super Hero status! But almost invariably for me, something happened immediately after each of my big achievements that served to remind me to put my feet back on the ground. I was just a normal person who was doing some pretty special things; not a special person, and certainly not a super hero.

Eventually I figured it out. Continue reading

Marriage, Medals and Mentorship – Toronto Star Article


By: Lauren Pelley Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Nov 07 2014

photo : Catherine Farquharson

photo : Catherine Farquharson

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. Continue reading

The media has pre-Games stress and distraction too


CTV NewsOn Jan 29th, I did another TV interview on my mentoring and the security threat from the athletes perspective. Recently, I’ve been asked a lot by the media how athletes are dealing with the distraction of the current ‘security threat’. This makes me laugh – because it seems to me that it’s the media who are the most distracted by it.While a major threat from inside the host nation is different that any of the pre-Games news stories that I can recall – I do believe that the scale of the hype around security can be chalked up to the media’s own pre-Games freak out. At the Olympics, there will be over 10,000 media representatives with almost 100 nations around the world following the Games. Globally the Games promise to take up the lion’s share of February’s news chatter. 

Waiting to start is when we are our most uncomfortable; nobody trains for that. Right now – all those media people are waiting for something “Olympic” to happen so that they can have an opinion and talk about it. Continue reading