“God” Used to be a Rower – discussing Wind, Racing and the Delays in Rio

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Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Rowers have joked in the past that God must be a rower. More often than not, Olympic Rowing conditions have been consistently excellent.

There have been short delays here or there but it’s been a long time since an Olympic regatta has been so wind effected. And – I think the last time one was SO disrupted it wasn’t even the Rowing regatta – it was the Canoe Kayak regatta in Sydney (2000). The two sports share a venue; Rowing is always week one and Canoe/Kayak is week two.

I’ll never forget watching the Canadian Flag Bearer, Caroline Brunet, and gold-medal favourite – be forced to race her K1-500m final in conditions that seemed to fit the white-water paddlers far more than the sprint/flat water paddlers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glUKGWFJKJA

People were furious, why wouldn’t that international federation and the IOC delay until conditions improved? They couldn’t – the Closing Ceremony would start in a few hours; all sports had to be completed.

I believe FISA, the international rowing federation, took a long look at that situation and made a decision to give rowing some flexibility if that were to happen in (their) week one.

Rowing used to begin on Sunday – day 3 of the Olympics – and the regatta finished on Sunday with Canoe Kayak beginning the next day. That gave rowing no ‘wiggle’ room to reschedule. FISA changed that. Now the Olympic Rowing Regatta begins on day 2 – the morning after the Opening Ceremony – and should be completed on the Saturday. This gives the venue a day to convert from rowing to canoe/kayak, but also it gives FISA a chance to find best conditions.

 

I would suppose that as far as FISA and their Fairness Committee are concerned – this week is a nightmare. Delays are hard on everyone. Athletes have been trying to peak perfectly for a moment in time for years, friends families and fans have spent a lot of money are trying to make sure they’ve the right ticket on the right day, TV networks are trying to juggle how to show everyone everything and FISA needs to figure out how to keep racing fair. (I’ve heard that on-line ticket systems are not co operating well with ticket exchanges. I can only imagine the exhaustion and stress that loved-ones are going through as they pass the “off” days trying to change their tickets (regatta and sometimes airline tickets and hotel bookings too) to the next right one.

I know that FISA study weather patterns – daily and long range – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have found themselves between a rock and hard place. FISA isn’t responsible for the weather – the best they can do is stay as connected to the expert weather forecasters and look for windows of opportunities. (I have to admit – I often joke the weather forecasters and pollsters seem to be the only people who keep their jobs even though their predictions are so often way off).

Saturday morning’s conditions were terrible – but the week at a glance wouldn’t have given FISA much hope for consistent improvement. Should they have postponed the first day? I read on Sunday, and FISA would have known, that Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be really bad. (Wednesday has in fact started off with a postponement.) So what were they to do? There are only so many days they can push forward to.

Heats are important, but in light of the continued bad weather – I’m glad that FISA didn’t delay into precious blocks of better racing weather. All other rounds are knock-out rounds and FISA needs to protect those.

The new schedule with 4 days of finals also gives FISA increased flexibility. This new Olympic and World Championship race schedule sets up relatively short days. So even when they merged 2 days on Monday– it was just a 5-hour schedule. FISA can use the afternoons and, worst case-scenario they have Sunday as a reserve day.

Being forced to use Sunday would be FISA’s and the IOC’s worst-case scenario. For the athletes, worst-case scenario would be racing for their Olympic dreams in white-caps, cross winds and/or unfair lanes.

No one dreams that.

SEE THE SPACES

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PowerofMore_bookjacketSee the Spaces

An excerpt from The Power of More, How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals

 

… I was burnt out, exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed a change, so at the age of twenty-eight I retired from sport. Or so I thought. The next year would help to remind me of some important and really doable goals that I had once set for myself.

In my retirement I unwrapped myself from my overprotective lifestyle and learned to snowboard in Whistler, B.C. I thought this would be a good time to go and play on a mountain instead of at a lake; I affectionately referred to this season as “the year of the broken bone.” Before retirement, my health had affected not only my performance but also that of my rowing partner. In this “arranged marriage,” Kathleen Heddle was my dependant, and I was hers. If I got sick or injured, I took Kathleen down with me; a port is no good without a star- board. This had made me particularly sensitive to the dangers of getting injured by doing something dumb. There would be little forgiveness if I showed up with a non-rowing injury. I had pretty much turned myself into a one-trick pony in bubble wrap. This was the first thing I wanted to change. I wanted to have fun, to be carefree, and I was prepared to accept the consequences. For the first time in a long while I felt as if I could take an unplanned risk. What joy!

Living in Whistler and learning to snowboard was fantastic, but I still craved structure and focus. At the suggestion of a friend, I took a course, got certified, and—with the help of Intrawest, the company that owned Whistler Blackcomb was quickly teaching adult beginner snowboarding. What a blast! I would free-ride in the morning with the other snowboard instructors, and then, from ten to noon each day, I’d teach a class. Saying that I snowboarded with the other instructors may be a bit of a stretch. The truth was that I had to do everything I could just to keep them in my sights. If this was a cup (of rice that) I was trying to fill, mine was still mostly empty.

Just as I hoped to progress and learn every day, I watched the other instructors improve their abilities too. They kept trying to get more height off a jump, to do a new trick, or to master a bigger feature. I watched how they would try every day but never put a timeline on their learning. They were definitely ambitious about snowboarding, but they were also patient. It made me realize that I had forgotten patience when I was rowing. I was also struck by how playful sport can be— there was so much joy.

The lifestyle I created as a snowboard instructor made a few other things apparent to me. Not the least was that I wasn’t cut out to be a great snowboarder! I missed Continue reading

Just Married!

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Marnie & Deanah, April 6 2014 - thx to Catherine for an early pic to share here!

thx to Catherine for this early picture to share here!

This is definitely the type of post that should have lots of pictures but I’m going to wait for the good ones!

Sunday April 6th –  was an incredible day. Deanah Shelly and I got married.

It started with a crazy idea way back in December: “Why not have a surprise wedding?!”

I’ve a life philosophy that one should surround herself with talented people and then seek and take their advice as much as possible, so when my good friend Catherine Farqaharson, a fabulous photographer who has been to countless gorgeous weddings, said that she LOVED the idea – the crazy idea of a surprise wedding became a real plan.

This wasn’t to be the “normal” surprise wedding where the guests arrive to what they think will be just a dinner party or just a bbq only to realize that they are at a wedding, but rather the kind where one of the brides(!!) arrives to what she thinks will be just a brunch. I’ll tell you, planning a wedding really isn’t so tough – it’s keeping it as a complete surprise from one of the brides – that’s what adds quite a twist!

Deanah and I have been engaged for over a year and a half – and while we’ve talked about locations, seasons, guest lists, style, form and function… we could never get even close to picking a date. From the day you tell people that you are engaged the next question is always, “When’s the date?”. It was starting to become a sensitive subject for us because everyone asks when? and we continued to have no answer.  West coast? East coast? a destination? Summer? Winter?  With respect to our guests there could be health and accessibility issues – so how do we pick when and where? In trying to please everyone we could not decide on anything.

So I jumped in. I didn’t tell Deanah – but I jumped waaay in. I decided that I would take everything we had talked about and pick a date. Continue reading

Start happy, finish happy.

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Watching Alex repeat as Olympic Champ & solidify spot in Cdn sport history

Watching Alex repeat as Olympic Champ & solidify spot in Cdn sport history

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

Maxime, the eldest of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters

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.

hanging w Heather in OV cafeteria

hanging w Heather in OV cafeteria

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.

 

txt from kaillieOn 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.