With my family, the sky is the limit

With my family, the sky is the limit


We are a team - win or lose

By Tammara Thibeault for CBC Sports
January 17, 2021
 

I’m nine years old, it’s the first time that I am being shown my boxing stance. One of the trainers comes over, shoves me while I’m in my stance and says :“Pretty solid. A southpaw too? You’re gonna be just like your dad.” From that very moment, I knew that I wanted to be great...

For some people, superheroes come out of comic books and movies. For me, my parents are my superheroes, and my story cannot be told without hearing theirs first.

Tammara, mum and dad, half of the Thibeault family of six. (Photo submitted by Tammara Thibeault) Tammara, mum and dad, half of the Thibeault family of six. (Photo submitted by Tammara Thibeault)
 

It’s the early 1980s and my mother, Judeline, is one of the first black girls to be adopted in the small-town of Saint-Georges de Beauce. At four years old, she meets her new parents, an ex-nun named Gisele, and Guy, a manager of mines in the Eastern Townships. My mother tells me stories of a beautiful childhood, filled with farm animals, laughter and family.

In 1989, tragedy hits. Guy passes away from a heart attack. At the age of 12, My mother’s world is turned upside down. Their family of three turns into a family of two. Motherhood was not something that came naturally to Gisele, and my mother and grandmother had an awkward and unusual relationship. The next couple of years included regular weeknight mother & daughter salsa lessons, enduring racial slurs from student peers, and schoolyard fights that led to countless hours in the principal’s office.

 

I asked my mother what that time was like for her, and she said that so long as she knew who she was and what she was worth, there was nothing anyone could do that would bring her down. And she made sure to put people on notice if they got too rowdy!

Around the same time, 500 k east in small town Baie-Comeau, my father, Patrick, was packing his bags to leave home, along with his older brother Gino. My Dad had a dream. He wanted to play professional football. He walked out the door and never looked back. With a bag full of clothes, a chip on his shoulder, and 20-20 vision, he left everything he knew behind and headed straight for the big time.

Patrick Thibeault far right, celebrates 2001 Vanier Cup Win with Tammara riding on his shoulders. (Photo submitted by Tamm Thibeault) Patrick Thibeault far right, celebrates 2001 Vanier Cup Win with Tammara riding on his shoulders. (Photo submitted by Tamm Thibeault)
 

It’s 1992, my fifteen-year-old mother has a shaved head and loves Def Leppard. Her go-to outfit is a leather jacket, doc martins, and skinny black jeans with zippers all the way down the side. My father has just moved to St-Georges for the football program. He’s a hip-hop fan, decked out in a black Chicago Bulls jersey and black skater pants, accessorized with a gold chain and a diamond stud in his left ear. They both say it only took one look. They were instantly drawn to each other. Patrick asked Judeline if she wanted to go watch a football game with him. The rest is history!

By 1996, my parents are 19 years old, and expecting their second child. Their first-born was calm and easy-going, but I came out like a raging ball of fire. Two years later, our family welcomed it’s fifth member, my little sister. Three weeks later, my parents got married and packed their bags to move to Halifax, NS. They enrolled full time at Saint Mary’s university. Neither of them spoke English, but they knew that would learn one way or another, and so they did just that. Both my parents finished at the top of their class, while taking care of their three children.

 

After winning the 2001 Vanier cup, my father finally reached the goal he set for himself. He got drafted to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

We became a family of six with the birth of my little brother in 2003. The family relocated to Regina, Saskatchewan. That’s where I discovered a new passion, boxing. It started out simply as a moment that we kids could have with our father. It was the activity we had with our dad.

Thibeault, third from left, won bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games; defeated only by the eventual gold medalist. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters) Thibeault, third from left, won bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games; defeated only by the eventual gold medalist. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
 

I grew up watching my parents grind hard through life, striving for what seemed impossible achievements. My mother is a strong woman. She could handle anything that anyone threw her way. My father is one of the most humble, disciplined and gifted individuals that I have ever met. Together, my parents are the A-team. They fearlessly immersed themselves in unknown new environments, and they built our family home from the ground up.

 

When I started my journey towards the Olympics, I had no idea what lay ahead. I watched my father reach the highest level in his sport, and I knew that I wanted to do the same. I wanted to “be like Mike”, but in this case, “Mike” was my dad...(he's Patrick, actually, but you get the idea). Because I watched my parents grow into the people they are today, I knew that things wouldn’t just fall into place. I knew that I had to work hard and work smart to get what I wanted. Both of my parents are still an important part of my athletic career. When I have a bad day of training, they are the first people I call.

For a couple of years, I trained with my father. Believe it or not, that’s because I had to beg him to coach me. At first, he refused. He didn’t want to mix family and sports. Little did we know, our partnership would turn into Team ‘beast mode’. Over the years, boxing became our therapy. No matter how things were at home, school, or work, the gym was our oasis. We found our groove and we became the dynamic duo. We were a team, win or lose.

When I first stepped foot in the Regina Boxing Club, I was told that my work ethic determines my future. Working with my father in the gym has also taught me the necessity of tunnel vision.

I have been blessed with parents who encouraged me. They gave me the tools to chase the stars. In moments where I feel like things are impossible, they make sure to remind me that the sky’s the limit.

(Top large image by Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Next Question:The Tammara Thibeault edition

Q: The best book you've read? 
A: When things fall apart by Pema Chödrön

Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: Joe Rogan

Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Sky's the Limit.

Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: Train Wreck

Q: Word or phrase you overuse? 
A: : "Let Me Tell You."

Q: Skill you wish you had?
A: A photographic memory

Q: Something no one would guess about you?
A: I am super artsy!

Q: What scares you?
A: Dying.

Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Will Smith, Malcolm X, Muhamed Ali, Queen Cleopatra.

Q: What makes you cry, every time? 
A: The Titanic Movie.

Q: Next goal?
A: Olympic Gold

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