COC adds 3 former Olympians as Team Canada mentors for Winter Games
'You cannot have regrets after your performance' says former freestyle skier Vincent Marquis
With less than five months to go until the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, Team Canada is bolstering its support staff by adding three former Olympians who will serve as mentors for the athletes competing.
And no job is too small.
"It might be that I have to find where the cereal is in the morning or where the next cup of coffee is," said former freestyle skier Vincent Marquis. "I'll be on call for the athletes from about 7 a.m. until midnight every day."
Marquis is one of three former Olympians recently selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee to better prepare athletes in the lead up and during the Games. He's joined by Jeane Lassen and Julien Bahain.
Bahain is a three-time Olympian who competed in rowing for France in 2008 and 2012 before racing for Canada in his last Olympics in 2012.
Lassen, originally from Whitehorse, competed for Canada in weightlifting at Beijing in 2008.
Marquis represented Canada in freestyle skiing at Vancouver 2010 where he finished just off the podium, placing fourth place in moguls.
"For me it was a lot of pressure," Marquis said. "You can't hide from it. But when you get to the Olympics the only thing you need to do is be in a good mental space and execute what you've been doing for the last four years."
But when Marquis looks back on his performance on home soil, he has regrets. He said the moment became too big for him during his qualification run which ultimately kept him off the podium.
"I didn't let it go and give it my all. My final run, I let it go and skied without having any regret," he said. "It was a way better approach. "
"You cannot have regrets after your performance."
Keeping away the distractions
More than anything, Marquis said the three mentors need to provide a positive atmosphere for the Canadian Olympians while in South Korea and keep away any possible distractions.
"It's quick. Everything goes by so fast and it's a lot of pressure," he said. "They just need to stay in their bubble and in their zone."
While Marquis looks back on his performance in Vancouver with some regret, he said he remembers talking to people like Marnie McBean, Mark Tewksbury and Isabelle Charest prior to the Games.
"For me it was great to hear their experiences. Everyone prepares differently but to hear as much as I could expect was really helpful for me," he said.
And if there's one key message Marquis will try and hammer home to the athletes during the upcoming Olympics, it's to "compete like there's no tomorrow and have no regrets."
'This can be a game changer'
The trio of Canadian Olympians now complete the team that will work under the guidance of two-time Olympic champion speed skater Catriona Le May Doan, who was brought on by chef de mission Isabelle Charest in June in the role of Lead Athlete Mentor for PyeongChang 2018.
Charest competed on the short track speed skating team for Canada at three Olympics starting in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. She says there has been a big shift around the mental preparation of athlete's from when she was competing.
"I feel they're much smarter than I was back then," Charest admitted. "We were overwhelmed and it was too much for us. We were too focused on the results rather than the process."
And that's what Charest wants to take out of the minds of the athletes right now. In fact, she said the COC isn't targeting a medal count or ranking to ensure there are no expectations of specific outcomes during the Games.
"We're just focusing on the best atmosphere for the athletes to perform."
That's where the importance of the mentors comes in. Charest said she'll be so busy running from venue to venue that she won't have as much time as she'd like with the athletes. She said in many cases the three mentors will act as the bridge between her and the athletes and have the best sense of what's going on in the athlete's lounge.
"They need to be accessible to the athletes. They'll know the feel of the team. There's a lot you find out when you're in the athlete's lounge," Charest said.
About 30 past Olympians submitted applications to be a part of this journey. It was a fast process that took place over a week this past summer but Charest wanted to ensure they didn't get fixated on big names or medal hauls, but rather applicants who could bring wisdom to the team.
"We wanted athletes who had stories and experiences and could relate to the athletes. These three are very easy to talk to," she said.
This is the first time since Charest retired from the sport after the 2002 Olympics that she'll be making a return to the Winter Games. She's helped on past Team Canada mission staffs but it's all been during the Summer Games.
"I feel more in my element. I feel more prepared now and very confident about this role."
And she has a team behind her now she feels will help take Canada to a different level in South Korea this winter.