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 – 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.
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.
On 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.