With just around 100 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympics, and too many women ahead of me in the world rankings, the last thing I can afford to do is think that just because I made the Canadian team I'm OK.
Far from it. As of right now, I'm ranked sixth in the world in the 100-metere backstroke, and my 100 freestyle ranking is not even worth mentioning. Plus, some countries, like the United States, haven't even held their Olympic trials yet. I was happy with my swims at the Canadian trials, but there is still a lot of work to be done if I'm to have even a chance at winning that elusive Olympic medal.
The week after the trials, I had to take advantage of my downtime. Although I didn't have to report back to Saanich Commonwealth Place in Victoria until April 9 (one week after trials ended), I was still busy. We spent the first day and a half filling out paper work, signing memorabilia, and talking to media: basically completing the first round of necessary busy work that comes with being named to the Olympic team.
Following that, I stayed in Montreal for an extra two days to "model" for Speedo Canada's next catalogue. Even though the shoot meant two more early mornings when all I really wanted was to sleep, spending 48 hours in model mode was right up my alley. My inner diva was given permission to come out in full force!
But even through make-up applications, hair touch-ups, and constantly being told that "the camera loves me" (something I have decided photographers tell everyone
with the hope that it will make you relax and produce a decent picture) I had to remember what I really am: an athlete. After all the bobby pins were out of my hair and all my make-up was washed away, I would head down to the hotel gym to get in a bit of cardio. Through the blinding excitement that comes with qualifying for the Olympic team, you have to keep your eyes on what is important: performing at the Olympics. Photo shoots and interviews - even though they're fun - aren't going to make me perform. I have to keep training, harder than ever.
So when I returned to my hometown of Stratford, Ont., for a 48-hour cram session of family time, I didn't let myself slip. In fact, I may have overdone it a bit. The weather was particularly nice on Saturday, so I decided to go for a run around the Avon River. The sun was shining and the swans had just been released the week before. Add that to the playlist that I had blaring through my headphones, and I felt like I could run forever! Unfortunately, this meant that I could barely walk
when I woke up the next morning (and the following morning) but it was worth it. Especially because now I know that I should probably stick to the water when it comes to my long cardio sessions.A farewell to Randy
When I started writing this blog, I planned on keeping it light and fun, focusing on things like the hilarity that is wedding dress shopping when you're 5-foot-11 with a swimmer's build. But Monday's events have forced me to take a much more somber tone.
Just as I was about to get in the pool on Monday afternoon, I heard the sad news that Toronto Star journalist Randy Starkman had died
. Initially, I was in shock. Two weeks ago, I had a long interview with him about the Olympic trials and what's in store for me this summer. Before that, I saw him every night in the mixed zone in Montreal, standing in the middle of a cluster of journalists, never afraid to be the first one to start asking questions.
This is a loss to not just the Canadian swimming community, but to all sports
, and to our entire country. In a media world where journalists sometimes like to blur the facts and turn their backs on athletes when we fail, Randy stood alone. I always trusted that Randy would present me as me: not as the athlete he decided I was. He never misquoted me, never made me look bad, and never, ever got his facts wrong. Most importantly, he genuinely cared about the athletes. That's why he was so good at his job. When people ask me why I want to be a journalist when I retire from swimming, I say it's because someone needs to stand up for the athletes. Someone needs to be their voice. But if all journalists were like Randy, I guess I never would've had that as my answer, because he was our voice.
The loss we feel as athletes pales in comparison to the loss felt by his family. My heart goes out to his wife and daughter, and I only hope they know how many lives Randy touched.
In two weeks, we have lost two great supporters of our team: Dr. Gord Sleivert and Randy Starkman. I wish I had had a chance to tell them thank-you for everything they did. When you imagine yourself winning a gold medal at the Olympics, you also imagine thanking everyone who helped you get to that point. But why is it that you have to wait so long to give much-deserved thanks? Especially when you realize that, sometimes, if you wait until you're on the podium, it's too late.
I'd like to take this time now to thank everyone, everywhere, who has helped me on my Olympic journey. From my mom and dad, who drove me to practice and meets from the time I was eight, to my sister ,who understands me unconditionally, to my fiance, who has given up his own dreams so I can chase mine.
I also have to thank my extended family, who have supported my decision to travel the world and miss almost every family gathering we've had in the last decade. I have to thank every coach, my extensive support staff, and my friends who are spread across this entire continent.
There are so many people who were integral pieces to my success. There is no possible way I could thank them all in one blog. But over the next few weeks, I hope that I can find some way to repay the people who have given so much of their own time for my dream.
I absolutely have to succeed this summer, because I can't let everyone's hard work go for nothing.
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