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

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.

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.

All in a (Olympic) Day

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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.