As the Winter Olympics approach, I find myself reminiscing about the amazing experiences I had as an Olympian representing my great country of Canada, not once but twice on the world’s biggest stage.
It’s so hard to believe that it's been 30 years since the Calgary Olympics, and 34 since Sarajevo. With the countdown ticking for these inspiring athletes going to Pyeongchang, South Korea the days are filled with so many emotions: excitement, pressure and a real desire to have all their dreams come true.
For me, this was a reality. It was everything I ever dreamed of. A “moment” like that comes true for only a few athletes, but for all of them, the experience and the memories will last a lifetime.
There is so much I could share with them, and so much advice. For every athlete, it's a different experience, but one piece of guidance goes for all: believe and trust in your abilities and your training.
Looking back at my Calgary experience, such mixed memories flood the mind. I remember being so sick with the flu that we believed I would have to withdraw from competing.
I remember flying home after the opening ceremony so I could try to get healthier and be able to concentrate in my own training facility, sleep in my own bed, and focus.
Every athlete comes to the competition with a game plan. Their entire career relies on every part of this plan. It is the plan that puts them in a place of focus, confidence, and sheer determination to execute years of practice and success. As you can imagine, becoming ill was a hiccup in my game plan, but knowing this, and being trained as well as I was, I found the determination to stick to my plan.
My true desire to succeed was the key, even though I was ill. I also worked with excellent sports psychologists who helped steer me through this sudden disturbance to the plan. The most important part of the Games for every athlete is their mental state. I have always said, “if you make it to the Olympics, you are good enough to be there.” It's all about the mental game after that.
The athletes who are able to hold it together mentally are the ones who will succeed. I also like to say that it takes two Olympics to get the job done right. The athlete’s experience in their first Olympics is so incredibly overwhelming and exciting that maintaining focus can be very difficult.
Competitors are used to being at meets and tournaments with athletes from their own sport, but to suddenly be thrown into the Village with athletes from all sports, and to mingle with the names and faces that you never had any chance to encounter before? That is one of the most amazing experiences in the journey of sport.
And it can become really overwhelming. This is where that game plan comes into place. The plan to focus and stay in control. With all the distractions and excitement of the immersion in the moment, it is so important that the athlete sticks with their plan, and doesn't waiver from it.
Remember the plan
Enjoy the Games — absolutely. But remember, stay with the plan. Coaches, sports psychologists, team leaders, the athlete. Everyone needs to stay with the plan. Success, comes with it.
The moment arrives. The dream. This is it. The Olympics! Representing your country, being an Olympian, I can tell you, it's everything you hoped for, your entire life. Walking into the stadium during the opening ceremony wearing Canadian colours, words can’t describe it. This is the moment that every athlete realizes “I did it!” Years of dedication, years of hard work, years of giving up so much. It’s coursing through every athlete’s mind when they enter that stadium. If only every person in their lifetime could experience that moment.
As we watch our great athletes prepare and embark on this Olympic journey, know that there is a plan, and a dream in place. When we watch them compete at the ultimate event, we know they will experience possible hiccups, unforeseen circumstances, but they are determined and have worked their entire lives for this moment. If they succeed and become
our household heroes, we will celebrate along with them, and know they did it not only for themselves but for Canada. If they don’t succeed, we should celebrate them just as much.
They are doing it for all of us. They have worked for this moment. It is to be celebrated and honoured. It inspires and deserves to be remembered forever. Win or lose, we are all to be proud and wear the maple leaf alongside them.
To all our athletes: dream big, and be passionate. Success will come your way. As I have always said: believe. Dreams do come true.
Top large photo by Skate Canada; middle large photo by Canadian Press