Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Letter For Kyle


Olympic gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt wheels his way to a news conference last September to discuss his injuries and recovery time for 2008 Olympics. The Canadian gymnast broke both of his knees and suffered ligament damage after an awkward landing while training for the 2007 world championships in Germany. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)






A Letter for Kyle

Even Olympic champions can face roadblocks


By Scott Russell, CBC Sports Weekend
Monday, March 24, 2008


This is just to say I'm cheering for you, Kyle Shewfelt. I know that, technically, I'm not supposed to. You're an athlete and I'm a broadcaster. Convention says my relationship with you should be an impartial one. Let's pray that no one reads this then. I'm behind you a hundred percent my friend! You are a champion and I know that you can be again.

When you won that gold medal on the floor exercise in gymnastics at the Athens Olympics, well, it was something I'll never forget. You took on the Russians, the Romanians and the Americans, all the "big boys" of your sport, and you were just that much better. To see you standing there with the laurel wreath on your head, the gold medal hanging from your neck, having become the first Canadian gymnast to ascend Olympic podium was simply awe inspiring.

To hear you say what you did at the end of the day was like music to my ears. "I love gymnastics," you said. "This means the world to me."

That's why it hurt so much to arrive in Stuttgart, Germany, last September to cover the attempts by the men's team to qualify for the Beijing Games and find out that you had broken both of your legs in a training exercise. But there you were, in the wheelchair, locked into horrible looking splints and full of confidence that the guys would qualify without you. Then you figured you'd be back in no time and you'd all win a medal together in China.

Have confidence, Kyle

I guess it's been a little tougher than you first imagined. Still, I know you'll figure it out. I have confidence in you.

Hey, I was speaking with your old coach the other day. Kelly Manjak feels your pain, I'm positive of that. How could he not? After working with you from the time you were six-years-old until you won that medal, he became your "rock." Then he moved to Ontario to have a family and left you in good hands back in Calgary but, as you know, he's followed your every move since.

Kelly told me, during the course of our conversation, that he thinks you were even better just before the injury than you were when you won the Olympic medal. The moves were more difficult, the routines more intricate and your preparation to take on Beijing was beyond question. "It was very difficult for me," Kelly said when he heard about the broken legs. "Kyle phoned me just before the Stuttgart championships and he was so happy and excited!"

Kyle Shewfelt wears his gold medal after winning the floor exercise at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. (Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press)

So now, I know you're coming here to hang with Kelly for a week or so and get a little advice. Good idea. After all, you always told me that he was so important to you when things got rough.

"Kelly is a part of my family," you said. "I guess he's my comfort zone and I know that his love for me as a person and as an athlete is unconditional."

For his part, Kelly Manjak is squarely in your corner Kyle. He's a believer. Get set for a week of "blue sky" thinking because that's what this is going to take. Kelly is counting on the fact there's no time to waste with fretting about whether or not the comeback is worth it. "He has to see something good in everything right now," Kelly figures. "I will encourage him to make the best of each day."

This is all wrapped up in your significance as a Canadian athlete, Kyle, your place in history, if that doesn't sound too high and mighty. After all, you became a symbol to a lot of people in this country when you won in Athens. I'd covered gymnastics at the Olympics for quite awhile and the thought that a Canadian could be "top dog" ... well, it was just a pipe dream!
Canada found its champion

Then you came along.

Kelly Manjak knew that in you he had lightning in a bottle.

"Kyle has been so important for Canada because of what he has proven to younger gymnasts," Kelly said. "He has proven that winning is possible. That you are what you think you are."

It's up to you Kyle. You are what you think you are. I can't imagine the pain you must be enduring. I've seen the pictures of the physiotherapist bending your scarred legs and you stifling the screams. I hurt every time I see you trying to run and I wince when I understand that an excruciating hobble brings a smile to your face because you believe you're making progress. I wonder how you do it. I wonder why you even try.

You once told me something about winning that gold medal in Athens. As I recall, you always believed that the victory was not the end of the story but just another chapter in the book.

"Being an Olympic champion doesn't completely define a person," you said. "But I also know because of it that anything I want to achieve in my life is possible and I guess that has given me confidence to move forward."

Shewfelt became an international force on both the floor and vault exercises. (Getty Images)

Always looking ahead and never retracing your steps - that's you Kyle! This struggle is just another plot point in your drama. It's like that old Japanese marathoner once claimed. "Welcome the suffering - only then will you know how to reach your limits." That's sage advice for someone who wants to be a champion!

I'm sure you're heading back to the gym, Kyle, to continue the grind. Just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you and hoping for the best. If anyone can make this happen, you will. I understand that you can't continue to send your video diary because you've really got to get down to business and concentrate on making this comeback happen. But don't forget to keep me up to date with those little beacons of hope that you rattle off from time to time.

You know, the little messages you send ... like this one: "Regardless of the way everything turns out, I think that this journey is going to define me far beyond my athletic accomplishments. I am becoming the person I have always aspired to be. But, no need to worry, I'm not quite done yet."
I won't worry Kyle. I'll just keep cheering for you and wish you all the best with your efforts to get to the Olympics in Beijing.

Just keep it to yourself ... will you?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Scott,

Thank you for writing this incredible column. I appreciate your support, I envy your passion and I am truly honoured to know you. What you do for amateur sport in Canada goes far beyond your broadcasting contributions...you are one of our biggest fans! That is clearly evident by the enthusiasm you display when it comes to our results and our journeys. So, thank you Scott. Not only for writing this inspiring article, but for believing in the potential of all of Canada's athletes. Keep up the amazing work. You are truly one of a kind!

Kyle

ps- There's no way I can keep something as special as this to myself (Plus, Simon Whitfield blogged it before I did...Simon thinks I'm a ninja! I think Simon is the fittest person (and one of the funniest) on the planet)! I guess I've always felt inclined to share anything and everything that inspires me... and this is definitely something that NEEDS to be shared! Thanks again!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!


I thought that I would mention that I am featured in this weeks 'Macleans' Magazine (see my little picture in the left hand corner of the cover?!?! Apparantly Jesus is having an identity crisis as well...poor guy!). I haven't seen the article yet, but I'm thinking it's a gooder. Macleans doesn't publish crap! Also, I'm hoping the photo is awesome because one of Canada's best photographers, Christopher Wahl, came by the gym and took some wicked shots.

OK, now run out to your local convenience store and pick it up...hurry!!!!!! Go! You've got to get a copy before they're all gone!


Cheers,
Kyle

Jurassic Classic

This past weekend was the University of Calgary Gymnastic Club's annual invitational called the "Jurassic Classic". It has become one of the biggest invitational competitions in all of Canada and this year marked it's 15th year! Wow! I competed at the very first Jurassic Classic...that makes me old!

Obviously, I didn't compete at this one, but I was there to support my teammates and of course, repeatedly answer questions about whether or not "I'm gonna make it".

I don't know if I should take offense to this question or if I should be flattered that people care enough to ask. Sometimes it's the tone. That hum haw, concerned and almost sympathetic tone. I wish that people would come up to me and say, "Holy smokes Kyle, you're looking good!" Not, "So, are you gonna make it?". Why does it matter so much? Is it because it's the Olympic year? What if this injury had occurred in 2006? Would people still be asking me the question, "Are you gonna make it?".

One thing that has become more and more apparent to me over the course of this process has been the emphasis that people put on the Olympics. It is HUGE! People have their vision focused on those rings and the spectacle of it all.

I have a question:

If I don't make it, then does that mean I failed?

I am feeling more and more like my chances of being there and being ready to challenge are getting better and better, but still, will I be a failure in everyones eyes if I don't make it?

I sure hope not. I hope that people are seeing the value in my attempt, regardless of the way it turns out.

I know that I do.

Kyle

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SOLD

This past week has been absolute pandemonium! My house has been for sale for a while and it finally sold. Yes! Then I bought a new place (which I get possession of on April 1st). Needless to say, I have had a hard time finding a spare minute to put any energy into updating the blog. My apologies to those of you who have been checking and not seeing updates. More will come when things settle down.

This is an incredibly busy and stressful time in my life, but I am trying to maintain balance and remember where my priorities lie. Regardless of how insane my life is, I need to keep being committed to my progress in the gym.

Not to get into too much detail (as it is my personal life and Melissa's as well), but Melissa and I have mutually decided to be apart. Love is not the issue, I love her to death and I know she loves me, but we were just growing in different directions and it was starting to affect both of us. Our happiness was being compromised and we were not willing to just accept that. To be honest, I can't give her what she deserves right now. I barely have enough time to take care of myself!

I miss her, I miss the life we built, I miss our dog (Zoey), but I also know that I need to channel all of my energy into getting fit and being focused on Beijing. She supports me.

We made this decision with the intention of us both moving forward. Not moving on, moving FORWARD. I never forget the incredible people who make a difference in my life.


So, there you have it. Change is abundant in my life right now, but change can be good. It makes you grow and it makes you question what you really want. It makes you question what is important to you. It helps you gain trust in yourself and your decisions. Change also makes you realize that you can handle much more than you thought you could. It's overwhelming and scary as hell, but very empowering. It kind of makes you feel alive!

I must say though, now having a basis for comparison: a broken heart does hurt a lot more than broken legs.

They say that time heals...and if not, then you know where your heart belongs.

K.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Tumbling Machine

This past couple of weeks have been super productive in the gym. These video's speak for themselves:


videoThis is a backspring series to a double layout and it feels great to be able to do this. I can honestly say that I am not holding back at all!

videoThis is from 2 weeks ago. It took me a while to trust that I could take off and twist. This is a prime example of slow and steady progress. I did a one and a half twist and a simple front layout for a while, but then I decided it was time to add a full. The first one is always a little scary...I didn't know how my left knee would feel (stable or unstable). It actually felt great, no instability at all.

videoHere, about a week and a half later than the previous video, I do a 1.5 twist, front full, front 1 and 3/4 roll out. Notice how I do the roll in the piked position. I usually do it in the tucked position, with my knees close to my chest, but I am having a hard time getting my legs bent. My left hamstring is still bothering me, and I'm pretty sure it's because the plate is irritating it (I have a meeting with Dr.Mohtadi on Monday to discuss a cortisone shot). It felt awesome to be able to do this line because it means that I am just one step closer to putting things together! This will be one of my "actual" lines in my routine...so sweet!

videoIn this video I am doing 3 running steps to an arabian double front pike 1/2 out. The 3 RUNNING STEPS should really be in caps! This is a huge accomplishment for me. I still feel a slight burning in my left leg, but I am able to get enough speed to tumble quite well. Notice the half out at the end...I am still debating whether or not I will keep this half turn, but for the time being, it gives me more confidence than if I was to land forward. When I broke my legs it was on a similar skill to this, but instead of landing facing the camera, I landed with my back to it...and CRACK! flashback! Sick.

I am gaining confidence everyday. Soon I am going to have to start transferring these skills to the real floor, but for now, this is very positive! I actually feel like I might be a better tumbler than I was before. I am forced to be more aware, more technical and quicker than I usually am. There is no room for error and I need to be very protective. The last thing I want to happen is for me to make a stupid mistake...stupid mistakes are where you get hurt!

Hope you enjoyed the video's!

Kyle

Thursday, March 06, 2008

To Alex

In response to a comment from Alex after my 'National Post - February 24, 2008' post:

Her Comment was:

Hi Kyle,I have a question about a previous injury of yours. I know this is a comment on a blog about your knee injuries, but I found on the internet that you have had a bone contusion on your talus. I am a serious ballet dancer and have been told I have the same injury. You are the first athlete (and person) I've found who has gone through this same experience, and I'd love to know how you recovered. Since no one can give me a first hand account of an injury like this, any information you can give me would be great. Thanks!-Alex
4/3/08 12:49 PM



My response:

Alex,

I suffered a talus bone contusion in March of 2004. I landed short on a vault and I could barely walk off of the mat. The next morning I woke up and my foot was the size of a grapefruit and black and blue.

It was a very frustrating injury and I can honestly say that TIME was the most important factor in healing. I went to physio and did acupuncture and mobility exercises. I iced a thousand times a day. I went to the chiropractor and got ankle adjustments (only when I could walk without pain). I took an anti-inflammatory (Vioxx, but you can't get it anymore). I taped my ankle...I think the most important thing that I did was wait.

I literally didn't do any tumbling, running or landings for more than 2 months. I just started to do basic tumbling at the end of May. I remember one day I got in a panic and I tried to do a backhandspring series and it killed! I was in agony for 5 minutes, laying there with my foot in the air and squishing my face so that I wouldn't cry. Kelly, my coach at the time, told me that I have to be smart, continue being patient and not push it. It won't make me progress, it could actually cause regression. I listened.

I was determined to come back and be in great shape for Athens, but there was a point when I saw the Olympics fading away. When you can't tumble 4 months before the Games, you get a little worried! I guess I am kind of an expert at this now!

I kept my legs strong so that when I was healed I could come back faster and not injure something else. I could walk pain free after a few weeks, but walking down stairs, jumping, going up on my toes all killed. So, I didn't do those things, but did everything I could do that was pain free...not much at the beginning, but slowly I could do toe raises on the stairs (slow and controlled), jumping on a big soft mat, bungee exercises etc.

Mentally, I did a lot of visualization. I pictured myself doing my routines over and over. I pictured them perfectly and would try to feel like I was actually doing them.

At the Olympics I still wasn't fully recovered, but I was recovered and focused enough that it didn't affect me. In fact, it might have been an advantage. I was having small victories every day. I wasn't focused on the pressure and the hype. I had to keep it simple and be happy with the small progression I made each day.

Did you know that I didn't actually stick a single dismount on floor until the one I stuck cold in the Olympic final? I tried, believe me, but I would always take a small step or hop (I actually only added my double twisting double back to my full routine weeks prior). I would freak out once in a while, but I would calm myself down by trusting that when I HAD to do it, I was going to fight like hell.

Our minds are very powerful. Stay positive. Let yourself heal. TIME, my friend, TIME. I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. There is no magic shot (not even tequila!) or pill that cures it. I wish there was! Don't push it right now. It will not get better unless you let it rest. Do physio, ice, tape, keep your legs strong, but don't do things that give you that URK feeling (that's the only way I can describe that pain of a bone contusion when you go beyond the point you should...it almost zings through your body and you want to lay there and just hold your ankle in one place so that it does give you that sharp achy feeling again.)

If it makes you feel any better, I don't ever think about that pain anymore. It really does eventually go away! It's hard to believe now, I know, but trust me, it does fade away.

Good Luck, be patient, stay positive and keep everyone who reads this blog updated!

Kyle

Monday, March 03, 2008

No. I will not DEFEND my Olympic title, but I sure am an intelligent individual and very proud of my daily efforts!

This past couple of weeks have been a little crazy. Apparently the Olympics are starting to come onto the media's radar and everyone wants a piece. I am more than happy to accommodate most requests, but I am just going to have to be smart in the way I manage it. I say this because I am starting to feel a little lack of balance, control and the ability to say NO. I don't want to disappoint anyone, but I also have to remember that my main priority right now is training.

Many days in the past week or so, I have found myself so tired of talking about my injury and the way training has been going that I just don't want to think about it anymore! The thing is, I need to keep fueling positive energy and thoughts into the recovery process. These are just a little hard to find when you feel drained.

One question that keeps coming up during interviews is this (surprise surprise):

Are you going to be able to DEFEND your Olympic title?

I will answer that one right now...NO.

No, I will not be able to defend it because it is not something that can be defended. I don't have to give it back. No one is going to come to my house and take the medal away. Once an athlete is an Olympic Champion, they are an OC forever. There is no defense, just an opportunity to win again. My friend and fellow Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling, Daniel Igali, pointed this out to me. Great outlook. Makes me feel more at ease. Thanks dude.

So starting right now, I don't want to talk about a defense. I know it makes for a pressure filled story, but pressure is the last thing I need right now! I want to talk about how the possibility of winning AGAIN is my motivator. I want to talk about my team and how incredible they are. I want to talk about how huge of a victory it will be to compete in Beijing. I want to talk about how I am aiming to have my BEST performance. Typically Canadian, I know, but that was my goal in Athens and it is my goal for Beijing. Control what you can control...in gymnastics, that is ONLY your preparation and your own personal performance.

Over the past couple of weeks I have done interviews and photo shoots for McLean's, Go! Magazine, Hello! Mag, CBC Sports, Sportsnet and tons of National and local news and TV. Some of the photo shoots have been fun and made me feel like a celeb (I joked that it's a good thing I am already in Rehab! All I need now is to write a song, do some drugs and win 5 Grammy's!). Below are a couple of photos from the Hello! Mag shoot:




























During one particular interview with CBC, the producer (Karen, who reads this, so a big HELLO to you!) asked me some awesome questions. At one point I found myself talking about my intelligence and how I am proud of my efforts to this point. While I was saying it, it felt numbingly weird. I couldn't believe those words were coming out of my mouth. "I think I am an intelligent person" and "I am proud of myself" are not things that I commonly say out loud. I don't think many people do. But my question is: Why did it feel weird and why don't we say these types of things out loud more often?

When you say such a self-proclaiming statement, like "I am intelligent", you feel a little exposed...like you are standing there buck naked in front of the reporter!

I think we, as a society, have been conditioned to be humble and modest. We are told that it's bad etiquette to talk highly of ones self. We are afraid that others will feel intimidated by us, put off by our confidence and not accepting of our belief in ourselves. Seriously, how many times have you said out loud that you are intelligent or that you are really proud of yourself?

Try it...

Weird huh?!

I am one of the worlds most humble human beings. I actually loathe people who are conceited. It's one of my pet peeves when someone talks about themselves and everything that they are so awesome at! Shut the *#%& up!

But you know what? I think it's about time that we start being proud of ourselves, recognizing our efforts, focusing on our strengths (don't forget about your weaknesses...but don't obsess about them) and giving ourselves compliments.

We need to start focusing more on what we CAN do and less on what we CAN NOT do.

We need to be proud of the effort we put forth and stop focusing on what we could have and should have done, but didn't.

I commit this crime often. I have a hard time being proud of myself and recognizing my strengths. I focus on my weaknesses and always believe that I can be better than I am. To some, this could be considered a strength. I consider it a deterrent. It's negative thinking. It is focusing more on the HAVE NOTS than on the HAVES.

It's very liberating to look at yourself, your actions and your efforts and be content. To come home and know that you did everything you set out to do on that day is a great feeling. I want to try and live my life like this every day.

So, off I go, to conquer the world with my intellectual powers and to put forth an effort that I will be proud of! (I am such a dork)

Kyle

CANADA vs- USA

A couple of weekends ago, our team had a camp with the Americano's and then faced off against them in a friendly competition. It was a little bit early in the year for the guys to be completely prepared, but they did a good job! GO-CANADA-GO!

When I initially heard about the camp back a month ago or so, I decided that I would not attend, not only because I would be just returning from Hawaii, but I also didn't want to be embarrassed by not being in the shape that I want to be in.

It's kind of weird how I write and show my progress on this blog, but I don't want people to actually see my efforts up close and personal. I guess I feel like I am risking a little bit more when I am exposing my weaknesses. No matter how hard you try, you feel like a little bit of an idiot when people who are your competitors are able to see exactly how far behind them you are. It's not the greatest feeling for you, but probably a pretty good feeling for them! Ha, Kyle can't even run yet...team Canada is so screwed! I thought it would be better to have them wonder, or check out this blog, than to let them know where I really am in the gym. Not that I am disappointed with where I am, I am just not at a point where I want to show off my stuff to my competition!

Anyway, I watched the meet on Friday night and the USA won. Darn it! The Americans looked good though. Blaine Wilson is back...33 years old...that's flippin' insane! The Canadian guys looked good too. So good, I took pictures of them all for you to see (Bow chicka wah wah):


















































































In order of appearance: Adam Wong (A Wong), Nathan Gafuik (Nate, Nate Dog or Naysin), Ken Ikeda (Kenji), David Kikuchi (Dave, DK...creative, I know!), Grant Golding (G or G-spot (we're a bunch of guys, give us a break!)) and Brandon Oneill (Busy B or B sac...). I don't really have a nick name, although the guys at U of C sometimes call me Spesh (like Special K) or Shewfly.

And a couple more contenders for Olympic spots, Casey Sandy (Case) and Jared Walls (J-rad or Troll) but they didn't compete:


































I wanted to take a moment to show off my team. These guys are awesome! I know that I get a lot of the media attention, but every single one of these guys has been extremely committed to gymnastics for their entire life as well. Each one of these guys has represented Canada at major international competitions. Each one of these guys is dreaming about achieving amazing results in China. Each one of these guys basically eats, sleeps and breathes gymnastics right now and I think that they deserve exposure and recognition just as much as I do.

I want everyone to know that I would not have been able to achieve the results I have without my team. We push each other and we support each other. I want everyone to know that these were the guys who qualified this team to the Olympics. I want everyone to know that this team is going to surprise a lot of people in Beijing. This is the best that Canada has ever had (sorry to all of you past National team members out there, but it's true!). We achieved history in 2006 by coming 5th in the qualification (behind the super powers China, Japan, Russia and Romania) and 6th in the finals. I have a feeling that more historical results are going to be earned in Beijing!

I can't wait to get back into the mix and show that I deserve the honor of competing alongside these awesome athletes, and more importantly, incredible individuals.

Thanks for your support guys (and we'll get our revenge on the USA in China!),


Kyle

Saturday, March 01, 2008

McDonald's should give me a call! Or anyone else who is interested in my proposal!

I had this idea...I don't know if it will work, but I am going to test my theory and hope it does! My theory is this: I am going to make a partnership proposal here and hope that it somehow reaches the right person.

I want to create a corporate partnership with McDonald's. Why, you might ask? Well, for one, I sure LOVE my international Big Macs! It has become a sort of tradition for me to try one from each country I visit. Yum! There's just something comforting about 2 patties between sesame seed buns, processed cheese and that delicious special sauce when you are eating mystery meat that has been slathered in sweet and sour goop in Beijing! (Come to think of it, I didn't see ANY stray dogs while I was there either...I don't even want to know). But more importantly, I believe that I would be their PERFECT athlete ambassador.

I am a master at school visits. I love doing them...if I had my choice, I would do the majority of my speaking engagements at schools for the rest of my career.

When I do corporate talks I have fun, I get paid well and I always meet really interesting people, but I feel that I am affecting (really affecting) maybe 10% of the group. As adults we are already set in our ways. We have established our values, we are working towards our dreams and we, to put it bluntly, are quite jaded. Sure, an Olympic Gold Medal speaker can inspire you to work harder, set goals, believe that great things will happen in your life, but generally, we listen for the hour, hear some funny stories, go home, tell our loved ones and then go ahead with business as usual the very next day. I might not be speaking for everyone, but I am just admitting to what I do. I have heard some of the best speakers in the "athlete speaker" industry, and I always gain some knowledge and perspective, but I generally don't feel "saved" or "re-directed" after they speak. I always feel like I know them better, and that I like them better and want to hang out with them after they are done and ask them questions about their experiences, but I don't feel like I am a new man after anyone speaks.

*Holy crap, I just read that back and it sounds like I am dissing my fellow speakers and discrediting them and myself, but I am just trying to be honest and realistic. Half the time people are thinking more about those emails in their inbox that need to be answered or about what they are going to cook for dinner than about how the athlete standing before them is the coolest person in the world and how they themselves want to compete in the Olympics!

When I go to schools, I feel like I am affecting 90% of the kids (-vs- the 10% of corporate listeners). I feel like they think I am the coolest person in the world and that they genuinely want to compete in the Olympics (or play in a rock band...or be a scientist...whatever)!

I remember being a kid and being so inspired by Olympic athletes...I didn't even meet an Olympic Gold Medalist until 2002 when I met Catriona Le May Doan at the Alberta Sport Awards. I was so intimidated by her (and the whole experience of having to give a thank-you speech!), but she came up to me with that giant white smile of hers, congratulated me on my accomplishments and was very genuine and down to earth. She is still a huge role model for me (and now a friend and one of my favourite athlete speakers by the way! Great work on Countdown, Cat!), but just being in her presence inspired me.

I feel like I somewhat have this awe inspiring affect on kids too when I share my stories and experiences with them at their schools.

I have this video of me when I was 9 years old. I was named the "athlete of the week" by the local news and got a profile done on the 11 o'clock news. My parents actually let me stay up to watch it and I remember being mortified when I saw it on TV. I couldn't believe that I looked and sounded the way I did (believe it or not, my voice has changed a lot since then...). Anyway, I am so glad that I got that interview on tape because it is friggin' GOLDEN! In one part, the reporter asks me what my goal is. I look at him straight in the eye and say, "I want to go to the Olympics and win!". 9 years old. What the hell? How did I have such a defined goal? How did I actually believe that it was possible. How in the world did it actually become reality and how lucky am I that my mom taped it on VHS?!

I show this video to the kids at the beginning of my school visits. I show it to them for 3 reasons.

1: Because I want them to see what level of gymnastics I was doing then... the basic elements -vs- the difficult one's I do in my Olympic video.
2: I want them to see that I was a 'normal' kid, just like they are.
3: I want them to see that dreams really do come true.

Of course I explain to them that I worked hard, had many ups and downs (haven't done a school visit with the broken legs addition yet, but that will be fun!), but I also tell them that I never stopped believing in myself and my goals.

After the "thought provoking" section, where we cover all kinds of topics ranging from active living, making healthy choices, goal setting, being a good teammate and embracing challenges with a positive attitude, we get into the really good stuff...the Olympic Gold Medal cartwheel competition! A fan favourite...and my personal fave as well.

In the cartwheel contest I bring up 3 contestants (one usually being a promising gymnast (every school has one!) leaked to me by a teacher). Then I assign them a country (the "gymnast" of the group being the 'Canadian'!). I get each student to perform their very best cartwheel for the school. Based on audience applause (they are the judges...nice and fair judges, not mean and cranky ones!), we determine the winner of "Kyle Shewfelt's Olympic Gold Medal Cartwheel Competition (still need to get that trademarked)". The Canadian always wins, of course, because I get veto vote! Then the 2nd and 3rd place competitors receive a parting gift and the winner stands up on a podium (a chair in most instances) and gets the REAL Olympic Gold Medal placed around their neck. Now here's the coolest part, and the moment that gives me goose bumps every time: all of the audience stands up and honours the winner with a heart warming rendition of "Oh Canada". It is a fun and truly powerful moment.

To conclude, I do a few handstands, answer some audience questions (they always want to know if I drive and what kind of car...blue VW Golf) and of course, remind the students that if they work hard and dream BIG then anything is possible! Woot woot!

Now, here's what would be the perfect scenario for me. If McDonald's, or any other corporate partner for that matter (let's make this an open invitation and drive up the interest!), would financially back my school visits. I do every school visit for free (except for private schools). My mom and aunt work at schools in Calgary and I know that schools simply don't have enough funds to buy supplies, let alone bring in an athlete speaker. It's hard for me to do a lot of school visits because of the time and energy commitment it takes for literally no financial advancement (holy, am I ever politically correct!), but if I could make schools my primary speaking venue then I would be on cloud nine. I think that I could affect a lot of youth and encourage them to get active, set goals and believe that they have the potential to do incredible things!

If I could say what my ideal post-Beijing experience would be, I would have to say that touring the country and sharing my experiences at schools would be it.

In today's world, full of hideous role models (Crack head Spears...I just ruined my chances of ever being with her, but Oh well, she's nasty) and sedentary lifestyle (although Wii is making a small difference), kids need someone to look up to who they can relate to and who can inspire them. I believe I am the man who can do just that. My vision is clear...all I need is a financial partner to support the opportunity. Promotional plugs could be very abundant...autograph cards with your logo, potentially the "YOUR COMPANY'S NAME HERE Gold Medal Cartwheel competition, a contest for schools to win the visit, YOUR COMPANY's representative in 'said city' could introduce me...media and print mentions...hmmm.....


Any takers???
If you are interested, you know someone who might be interested or have a connection that could lead to this actually happening, please email my friends at Agenda Sport Marketing at kyle@agendasport.ca


Thanks and I apologize for the propaganda. I just really want to find a way to make this dream a reality!

Kyle