This is Your Story: Tokyo2020+1

An Open Letter to Canada’s Tokyo 2020 hopefuls: This Is Your Story

One year to go – again. Tokyo 2020 is now Tokyo 2020+1

It was a summer no one expected. The Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed, athletes had to put a pause on training and the future seemed scary and uncertain.

With exactly one year to go before the start of the Games, I penned this letter to Tokyo 2020 hopefuls:

“I can’t help but wonder: What is today? Is it a recognition of a missed year? Or a celebration of one year out? Either way, it’s part of your story.

Everything that has (or hasn’t) happened in the last six months and what will happen in the coming year, is part of your story.

What story? Every Olympian has a story, it usually has a lesson in it, and they tell it in different ways:

1. Their VERY SHORT story is of a moment during the Games.

2. Their SHORT story spans the Opening to Closing Ceremony and includes both Olympic competition and the Olympic city. (A bit of sport, a bit of culture, a bit of a party).

3. Their REAL story is longer, much, much longer. It’s a detailed, behind the scenes tale of persistence, determination, effort and resilience. It happens in isolation as well as before crowds and includes tears, pain, joy and celebration.

Most (all?!) Olympic stories include tales about how solid plans got disrupted and then how they were assessed, recalculated and continued. Think of an athlete you know or even someone you only know of. Do you think they got through their journey on a direct path? Not a chance.

So here you are. You had a goal and a plan. You were sent home. Your plan was put on hold.

More accurately, your plan was thrown in the garbage but your goal was not. However, your story continues. You’ve come up with a plan and you, and your team, are figuring it out. This is what you have always done – figure things out and thrive.

How you figure this out IS YOUR STORY.

As it always has been with sport, we can’t predict the end. Win or lose: that’s always been the game of it. One year from now, five years from now, or 20 years from now, you’ll be sharing your story. This (incredibly unique) story.

Your 2020 Olympic story is being written by you. It includes all the work and competition that led up to the global COVID-19 shutdown, it includes everything that you’ve been doing since February and it will include everything that will come in the next year.

Team Canada takes pictures as they arrive during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games. COC Photo/Mark Blinch

No matter what happens, continue to figure out a story that you’ll be proud to share. Continue to believe that you are capable of more. Continue to build a better, stronger and healthier you.

Many great stories are emerging during this time. Recently, Moh Ahmed shattered the Canadian 5,000-metre record to crack the all-time top-10 list (congrats, Moh!). Andre De Grasse posted a winning time of 9.69 seconds in the 100 yard event at the Weltklasse meet that was reduced and spread out due to COVID-19.

Erica Wiebe started her Executive MBA Americas program at Queen’s/Cornell. I saw Meaghan BenfeitoPierre-Luc Poulin and Joelle Bekhazi share photos of returning to training in what has literally been months (keep those coming!).

Jacqueline Simoneau represented her graduating class at Vanier College as Valedictorian. And Pam Buisa, supported by Josiah Morra and Charity Williams, organized a peace rally for Black Lives in Victoria.

This is just a snapshot and as Chef de Mission for Team Canada, I couldn’t be prouder of the story that you’re telling so far.

To those who have not yet been able to return to the field of play, know that the team behind the team is working hard to find solutions for you.

And to all of the athletes, coaches and support team who have been on the frontlines through all of this, THANK YOU!

So, what are you adding to your story today? – Marnie

Game ON! Seize the opportunity. Reconnect with play.

A countdown clock displays the remaining days until the new start date for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The opening ceremony will be held July 23, 2021 after this year’s Games was postponed last week due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

“And the clock is reset: when 116 days becomes 480. #Tokyo2020NE!”

– Yesterday’s tweet from Rosie MacLennan, two time Olympic Champion

So now we know when. The Tokyo Olympic Games have officially been rescheduled for July 23 – August  8, 2021. These Games will officially be known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games… but I’m a fan of the meme “Tokyo 202ONE”! (apologies that this doesn’t translate well).

la version français suite

Over the last week (has it only been 1 week?!) there have been many thoughtful interviews, social media and blog posts by Olympians; Olympic hopefuls, veterans and retired. It’s been a roller coaster. You’ve all expressed your heartfelt emotions; utter disappointment, anger, resilience, relief and through it all – understanding. You have all understood that as part of our bigger Team Canada, 37 million strong, we all need to be part of flattening the curve. 

“Instead of pushing back on what life has brought on all of us, I made the commitment to accept what is and cherish what lies ahead. Training is what keeps me focused and what makes me feel alive. I have found a way to stay in shape at a slower pace in the comfort of my home. Right now, that’s all I need.”

Jennifer Abel, Olympic Bronze Medalist, three-time Olympian in Diving

World Champion swimmer, Maggie MacNeil finds herself back in her parents’ (now heated!) backyard pool and posted “To the little pool that got me into swimming… now it’s helping to keep the dream alive during this crazy time”

Same for Sage Watson, Olympian in 400m hurdles, who is back on a family ranch in Medicine Hat. “This is where I first started running when I was 6 years old and it’s so fitting that I’m continuing my Olympic goals here at home.”

Lately, your creativity and humour are also shining through. 

Softball player Emma Carr has taken to bench pressing her sofa and Skylar Park, who has qualified for her first Olympics in Taekwondo, has her three brothers to use as sparring partners in her basement! Another athlete headed to his first Olympics, Sport Climber Sean McColl, has taken to posting a #dailychallenge – his push-ups done on cutting boards come with a warning! Olympic Champion in Big Air Snowboard and two-time Olympian, Sebastien Toutant’s posts seem to have inspired skateboarder Annie Guglia to have fun working on her in-home balance and agility.

As time passes this won’t be easy. The novelty of being creative and training in isolation will wear off. All of you face unique challenges in trying to stay in the world-class shape that you’ve worked so hard for. Facilities are scarce, to say the least, but there is an opportunity here. Reconnect with the joy and play that lit your fire for your sport.

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