Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Being an athlete that got to live in the experience of a few "100 days out from the Olympics", I wanted to write a blog to give a little advice to my fellow Olympians preparing for the BIG show in Vancouver...that are only 100 days away:) (I wonder how many times I will say that in this post and still look at it and think it looks weird? 100 days...yup, still weird).
My first piece of advice: You are feeling what you are feeling because you really care.
If you have been doing everything right, then 100 days should make you excited...and it should also scare the crap out of you. It should make you excited because it's been the biggest event on your horizon for years. It's kind of like Christmas for a 5 year old. On the other hand, or on the same page, whatever way you choose to look at it, it should scare the crap out of you because it's been the biggest event on your horizon for years! You've invested your life into it. It really matters to you. What I've learned is that things are a little scary (or a lot scary) when you really care about them. Trust that your fear is actually a sign that this is important to you and totally worth it.
I don't know what it is about the 100 day out mark that makes everything seem so much more real. It might be the fact that tomorrow the countdown will be in double digits and, like that cute little boy on the Disney commercial who is "too excited to sleep", visions of the 'real' thing happening are probably running through your mind when you are trying to get some rest. I will tell you that for 100 days before I competed in Athens, every night I dreamt about standing on the podium...
Next piece of advice: BE who you want to become starting right NOW.
Every breath you have taken leading up to this point has been one breath closer to the Games, but now, for some odd reason, it seems like each breath counts and matters just a wee bit more. And I'll tell ya, be aware of that and use it to your advantage. With each breath you take, make sure it is one that exudes confidence, and carries you forward exactly the way you want to be when you step into your event in Vancouver. Start putting yourself in those pressure situations NOW so that when you are there and it's the real deal, it will just feel like another competition day.
More Advice: Journal. Journal. Journal.
One thing that I loved to do about 3 months out of any big competition was to start a journal. I would record thoughts, feelings, training plans, frustrations, celebrations and various other things that flooded on to the page. I did this for a few reasons. 1: It held me accountable. You don't lie to yourself in your own journal. Why would you? 2: It gave me confidence to look back and see the work I'd done. On those days when things just weren't falling in to place the way I had hoped, my entries reminded me that this was just one bad day that was preceded by 10 great ones. It gave me great perspective. 3: It was so awesome to vent. Sometimes all you have to do is write out your problems and they disappear. 4: It made me reflect and was almost like meditation. I would write small cues that I needed to think of while doing my routines and the more I wrote them, the more I started to apply them in training. 5: Every day at the top of the page I would write how many days were left until my event and it was a constant reminder to make that day count.
The most diligent I had ever been with a journal was in 2003 before the World Championships. I wrote in it 2 times a day, every day. I literally saw my gymnastics transform while going through the journaling process.
Next piece of advice: Enter Warrior Mode.
100 days before the Games is your chance to turn on that inner warrior. This is your time to be selfish. This is your time to do everything you can possibly do in order to look back on that day you compete and have NO regrets. Eat right. Think right. Sleep right. Picture yourself having your best performance. Say no to beer. Say no to late nights. Say no to procrastination. Start being more focused on a daily basis. Start saying no to interviews and photo shoots if they don't fit into your training schedule (in fact, allot time slots that are dedicated solely to media and that is the only time they can hear your wisdom). Start a blog to share your thoughts. Start video taping your training and watching it back and pretending you are watching the Olympic Champion train! Be picky and correct your mistakes. Imagine the possibilities. Embrace the barfing feeling you get when you think of competition day...I guarantee you that you will feel it on competition day so you may as well start realizing that it will be your sign that you are going to give it everything you have.
I heard something the other day that really stood out to me. Someone said that you never want to look back on a moment and wish you could have done a little more. So don't even make that an option. Give it your all!
Next piece of advice: Realize that you are a weirdo, but an inspiring one!
100 days out can become a precarious time dealing with friends and family who are not immersed in the warrior like state of preparing to win the Olympics. Unless they have been in your position, they just don't get it. I have to tell you, in everyone elses eyes, you are an inspiring weirdo. How can you be so singularly focused on ONE thing? Guess what? That is why you are going to the Olympics and they aren't. Friends and family are very important, mine were always my biggest supporters, but in these last 100 days they need to realize that your priority is your preparation and sometimes they are going to have to take a back seat...those that know you and love you will understand when you get frustrated over a stupid little thing. This is the most intense time of your life and all of your senses are heightened. I would give everyone a little heads up and tell them that you'll be back to your "normal" self when your mission of "being the best in the world" is complete. They'll understand.
Next piece of advice: Take some time to give back.
Yes, I know I have been advocating selfishness thus far, but it's very important to balance that with a little giving back. They say that the secret to living is giving. Allot a little time to a charity project, to a school visit or to a fundraiser. Doing good things for others is fuel for our well-beings. This will also help you stay connected to the community and make you feel empowered when you realize how much support Canadians are sending your way! Bad days in sport don't really seem all that bad when you see someone who hasn't eaten in a couple of days. True story. It will make you appreciate your position as a Canadian athlete a lot more, that's for sure.
More advice: When someone asks you if you are ready for the Games (and they will!!!), use this answer:
"I'm not ready today, I won't be ready tomorrow, but I will be at my best on ___________ (insert your competition day here), the day when being ready really matters". And when you say it, smile with your eyes and really believe it. They'll shut up.
I found it quite funny after I won in Athens because some people called it a fluke. Some said that I got lucky because I had a stellar routine that day. What they didn't realize was that I had planned, for 16 years of my life, to have a STELLAR routine on that day, at that time, in that exact circumstance.
And, my final piece of advice for athletes heading in to Vancouver in 100 days: Realize that expectation is earned.
People don't expect great things from those who aren't capable of achieving them. In a weird way, we earn expectation. The Nation is expecting great things from you because you have proven that you are capable of GREATNESS! Turn expectation into a positive and believe in your own potential. Who cares what other people think anyways, what's really important is whether or not you have that expectation for yourself!
And there you have it. A little advice for my fellow Olympians. I hope some of it comes in handy!
As the days pass and we come closer and closer to these Vancouver 2010 Games materializing, I wanted to wish all of Canada's athletes a safe and brilliant preparation. I, along with millions of Canadians, am sending you good vibes and can't wait to see it all unfold starting in 100 days!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have been up to a lot of fun things since I last posted. I've done a ton of speaking gigs and events and the most recent one is happening right now in Surrey. I'm here to do a week and a half of school visits for one of my favourite Charities, Right To Play.
I've already done one week of the project and it was intense. I did 15 school presentations in 5 days. It has been an awesome experience and although I am sick of hearing myself speak, I know that an impact is being made.
On Thursday last week, Adam Kreek, Anna Rice and myself did a BIG presentation to officially kick off the initiative.
Here's some photo's.
(Photo's are courtesy of Rick Chapman and the City Of Surrey)
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
It really hit home. I feel a lot like I am free falling right now, desperately searching for that new "thing" that will fuel my passion (what is my passion??) and give me a tremendous sense of purpose (what is my purpose??). I am feeling a lot of doubt, uncertainty and confusion lately. Who am I? What do I want?? What kind of life do I want to create? What will be my legacy? What is holding me back? What is propelling me forward? Why do I feel dissatisfied? Why do I feel satisfied? Where are my pecs disappearing too?
I have a lot of grumble that is constantly ping ponging through my head and it's driving me a little nuts.
What I am trying to convince myself of is that I am growing and evolving during this "transition" process and that I NEED to go through this time in order to figure it all out...in fact, if my search has taught me anything, it's that as soon as you think you have it all figured out then you no longer have it figured out.
I hope you enjoy this parable as much as I did.
The Parable of the Trapeze
Sometimes I feel like my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment.
But, every once in awhile as I’m merrily (or even not so merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me in the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.
Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” It’s called “transition”. I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that lasts only until the next time my old buttons get punched.
I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”, a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one that’s coming towards me, I hope it’s real, too. But that void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?
No! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honoured, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments of our lives.
So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang-out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.
- Danaan Parry
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I recently filmed a television and radio campaign for KidSport AB. Check it out here.
Being involved in sport is so important for today's youth. It gets them active, gives them a sense of purpose and passion, creates direction, teaches important life skills and transcends into all facets of their lives. Youth who are involved in sport are more engaged in life and usually continue to be active well into their adult years.
Unfortunately, some families can not afford to participate in sports. That's where KidSport comes in. They provide financial support to families so that everyone can be involved in their sport of choice.
For more info and to get involved in your community contact www.kidsport.ca.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
In honour of today being the one year anniversary of the day we competed in Beijing, I thought that I would post something that I promised, but never delivered.
This post is not complete. I tried many times to finish it with no success. I can remember spending many evenings in Beijing feeling like I should be finishing this off, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. There were even days when I was home from the Olympics and had nothing to do, but the last thing I wanted to do was to relive my Olympic experience. I needed a break from it.
I'm not too sure why I couldn't finish it and I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? If I really wanted to be analytical, I'm sure I could come up with some deep rooted meaning that my avoidance revealed. But when it all comes down to it, I think I just needed some time away from being reflective and trying to dissect everything. And as time passed from this experience, it felt more and more distant and less and less pressing to get this blog complete.
When I read it back recently, there were a few times when I got chills and my bottom lip started to quiver. It brought me right back to the moment...and it was a very special one in my life. One that I will indeed remember forever.
I hope you enjoy it.
August 9th, 2008:
I woke up on this Saturday morning and I was pleasantly surprised that I had slept better than expected. I didn't toss and turn all night as I originally planned, in fact I did quite the opposite. I slept like a rock.
You know that moment in the morning when you open your eyes for the first time and your brain does the quick run through of your day? Usually it's like, "OK, time to get up and get into the shower, but before that I need to have a quick coffee and see what's new and exciting in my email. Hmmm...how much time do I have? Did I remember to set the automatic timer on the brew? Oh yeah, I did, I can smell it. OK, so what is the most important task that I need to get done today? Was there anything that I thought of last night that I needed to do? I should have wrote that thought down. Damn...what was it??? What are my dinner plans? Do I need to take something out of the freezer?".
I'm sure you all can relate.
Well, this morning, I woke up and the first thought that went through my mind was, "Holy s---, we compete at the Olympics today!!!!". I said it out loud and Nathan mumbled, "Wuh you say?" and he rolled over in his bed and put the covers over his head (little bugger always needs an extra 15 minutes). When this thought went through my mind, my heart started to thump in my chest and I got a huge lump in my throat. This was the actual day. How exciting!!!
Our team did a light morning jog outside (this was the most humid day yet and after 10 minutes I thought that I was going to overheat) and then we went in to the Canadian Wellness Centre and did some stretching and conditioning. The rooms were definitely way too small for us to limber up, but we kind of squished each other and made the most of it.
After the morning stretch it was time to start getting into the zone. Olympic time, baby!
I ate my customary competition day bowl of Brown Sugar Frosted Mini Wheats (General Mills is a sponsor of team Canada here, but I brought a box of Mini Wheats from home because they equal total comfort for me on competition day) and had an awesome French press coffee in the Canadian athletes lounge (which is way easier and less stressful than fighting off crazy and pushy java addicts at McCafe in the dining hall).
After breakfast, I retired to my room and started to write out my competition plan and key words that I was going to use during my warm up and routines that afternoon.
We were catching the 1:50pm bus over to the gym so I planned that I would shower around noon, get all of my crap together and then head over to the dining hall to eat lunch and head to the bus from there (the less walking the better!) .
I couldn't believe how fast the morning went by. Before I knew it, it was 12:50pm and I needed to get some food in my belly. So off I went to the dining hall, dropped off my gym bag and headed in for some pre-competition fuel.
As it turns out, I wasn't that hungry. I never am on competition day. I just kind of picked through my food and took random bites here and there. I actually prefer to eat by myself on comp days because then I can be all 'competition day' weird and anti-social without feeling bad, but on this day we had a small group eating together so I kept my head down for the most part and imagined myself doing my routines in my salad...which was very interesting (It kind of looked like a cool salad dressing commercial).
When we got to the gym the aura was intense, much more intense than podium training had been. Everyone had put on their serious face and you could cut the tension with a knife. This is something that I both love and hate. I could sense that a lot of athletes were feeling incredible amounts of pressure which makes me a bit nervous, but it was encouraging for me on the same page because I have always thrived in pressure situations.
When I warmed up I just followed my plan. I ran, stretched and did a bit of conditioning. Then I went to floor and did some basic tumbling. It felt great. Inside I smiled, but on the outside I tried to act nonchalant, casual and relaxed. Sometimes as an athlete you can just tell when you are going to have a good day, and for me this was one of them.
After basic tumbling, I went to vault. In my plan I just wanted to do one simple layout in the warm up gym in order to get a feeling, but not waste energy that I would need in the competition. After doing 1 vault that felt great, I moved to highbar.
Highbar warm up wasn't as phenomenal as I had planned, but I knew that it was just warm up and by the time I actually got to that apparatus in 2 hours time to compete I would be in a totally different head space. Sometimes you have to just accept that your warm up was a little off. You can't stress about it and you just have to keep reminding yourself that when it's time to actually hit your routine then you will be fine.
The second to last event that I warmed up was floor. My plan was to do one of each pass and it went well. I felt fast and smooth on my tumbling and I nailed everything.
The last event that I warmed up was rings, which was our first competition event. I think that the moment I put on my rings grips was the time when it actually set in that I was competing. I looked at the clock and it was 3:41pm. Competition started at 4pm. The countdown was on.
I can remember writing about the time line being 7 months away. I can even remember it being 33 days away, but now, at this point in warm up, I only had 19 minutes left. Whoa. I kept telling myself to take deep breaths. I'm ready. In 19 minutes I needed to unleash the gymnastics beast that I have been harboring inside of me for the past 11 months of preparation!
The moments before Olympic competition are the scariest and most exciting times an athlete can ever experience. You almost see all of your preparation flash before your eyes. You know that regardless of how scared you are you have to go out there and compete. A part of you just wants to turn around and book it out of there, but there is another part that wants to get right into the thick of things. This is where my brain was at. I just wanted to get out there and hit 4 routines...if I didn't decide to run away first!
Warm up ended at 3:50. This gave us exactly 10 minutes to sit there, wait and drive ourselves crazy with anticipation! haha. I tried to get deep into my competition zone and visualize myself hitting my first routine perfectly. The adrenaline was definitely pumping through my veins and my hands wouldn't stop vibrating.
We started on rings. All I wanted to do was to hold my strength parts and swing cleanly for my team. It was my job to start things off right and I knew this would be my role since we started our model trainings. I had tried so hard to make the model trainings feel like the Olympics and now I found myself standing there, waiting to go, and trying really hard to make the Olympics feel like a model training! Funny how that works.
After my quick 30 second warm up, I always turn my back away from the judges and apparatus and try to get centered and in control of my pitter-pattering heart and shaky hands. I take deep breaths, and each time I breathe in I remind myself of my readiness. I try to be as confident, powerful and positive as possible in that moment. I find that this sets me up well for the 'imminent deadline'...the moment the warm up is over and it's time for me to get the party started!
As the quick "one touch" warm up ended, the head judge raised his hand. It was go time.
As Tony lifted me to the rings, I felt very focused.
My routine was a constant counting fest. Back uprise planche - 1, 2, 3. Cross - 1, 2, 3. L-sit - 1, 2, 3. Handstand - 1, 2, 3. Giant - 1, 2, 3. Yamawake, Inlocate, Backuprise Straddle L, point your toes - 1, 2, 3. Press - 1, 2, 3. Giant, hold on to it - 1, 2, 3. Dismount, knees up, see the ground, on my feet, hell yeah!
All of the other guys hit and we moved to vault.
I had been debating whether or not I would compete 2 vaults here. I didn't have much time during the preparation phase to work on my second vault so it was a hard decision to make. Before the competition, Tony and I decided that I would do an easier second vault, but put my focus on nailing the first one for the team.
Before it was my turn to go I stood at the end of the vault and had one thought on my mind, I wanted to take one small hop forward.I ran down -with that damn little camera chasing me again- and felt awesome off of the horse. I had a great block, felt tight in my twist and I knew exactly where I was. I felt the ground beneath my feet and I nailed it. This was one of those Olympic moments you dream of. I couldn't have done this vault any better. It felt amazing! To put it into perspective, in my lifetime I have probably stuck about 100 of those, but only 1 in competition at the 2003 World Championships. Sticking in Olympic competition is the greatest feeling because you know that you couldn't have left the judges with a better impression. You feel like a rock star! It's almost like you're daring them to deduct you. In order to stick on vault you need to be in the absolutely perfect position and I was. To me, this was a moment where it felt like the stars aligned. This was comparable to the feeling I got in Athens when I stuck my dismount. For a few seconds, life was perfect. It couldn't have been better. If I could bottle up that moment and sell it then I would be a zillionaire!
I watched this vault back on the slow mow and at the end of it I noticed myself say (with a little cheekiness), "Yes". I don't remember saying it, but it was fueled by redemption, confidence, pride and excitement all rolled into one. I have done so many vaults in my lifetime, but I am going to remember this one forever.
After the guys were done racking up mad points on pbars, the team headed to my next event, highbar.
I have to admit, this routine was scary for me. I think back to it and I don't remember doing it for the life of me. I turned my brain off. Before the routine I was thinking too much so I just shut er' down and let my body go through the motions that it has done so many times before. The only thing that I really remember was that I was a little far on my def, but I caught on my finger tips (which also made my heart jump out of my chest!) - and just to let you know, this was the skill that I was having dreams of missing. I have to confess that I only missed one of these in the past 2 months and I started to think that eventually I was going to miss again- thank goodness it wasn't in competition because that would have really sucked!
After highbar, it was time for floor.
My mind was racing. I just wanted to do so well. I didn't want to think too much, I just wanted to be present and to do the routine that I knew I was capable of. I could feel the pressure. I could feel the anticipation. I could feel the expectation, but the only thing that I could control was my performance and so I tried my best to focus on that and only that.
After our warm up I tried to venture into my own little world. I stared at the floor and blocked out every noise possible. I could hear the crowd roar when China went, but I pretended that it was for team Canada and it was just part of the flow. My heart was thumping in my chest. My mouth was dry. My brain was racing, but I was able to control it. My legs felt strong, but equally weak.
After Nathan finished his routine it was my turn to go. Kyle = mission man. I think I am a little scary in the moments before I compete. Cracking a smile is impossible. My teeth chatter with anticipation, my eyes basically become crossed with intensity, energy rushes through every ounce of me. Time almost slows. You need to be so ultra focused. And I was.I stepped up to the podium and took a deep breath. The green light came on and it was time to compete.
I saluted the judge and reminded myself that this was the moment that I had been preparing for. I was ready.
My first pass was a blur. All I could think during the skill was "bend your legs on landing"!
Second pass: smooth as butter.
Third pass: I was talking to myself the whole time. "Whip, 2.5 -you're good, you're good!, Rudi. Sweet!"
Fourth pass: Super clean form and roll out.
I was on overdrive. You move so much quicker in Olympic competition than you ever do in training. I had tons of time left in my routine at this point to show off some of the smaller details.
Fifth pass: Solid. Great artistry!
Before my final pass I had a plan. If I had some time left to stand in the corner and breathe then I was going to go for a double twisting double back rather than the full twisting one that I had been doing in training. As it turns out, I had some extra time so I focused in on the corner of the floor and pumped myself up. I heard the buzzer go which signaled that I had 10 seconds left...
I ran with all my might and pulled off the double double with a step to the side.
I was ecstatic! This routine was the best one that I had done in the entire preparation process. I felt incredibly satisfied.
* I feel it's important to let everyone in on a couple of secrets about this routine. Looking back on the routine right now I have to chuckle because it really was equivalent to the best that I had ever done.
Firstly, My first pass was the 7th one that I had done without a softer landing mat. I did my first one without a mat about 5 days in to arriving in Beijing. It was one of the scariest things that I have ever done, but the relief and satisfaction that I felt when I landed it cleanly were tremendous. I knew deep down that it would come down to this, minimal attempts without a mat, but I knew that I would also be mentally strong enough to handle it.
Secondly, my fourth pass in my actual routine was only the second one that I had done without a softer mat...EVER! I was tempting fate for sure, but I knew that I needed this pass to get a high enough start value to challenge. I learned this pass at the beginning of June and then added it to my routine during our first trial in Edmonton. I have to be honest, my first attempt at this skill without a mat was during our podium training. It weighed on my mind that day, but I knew it wouldn't be a problem during the actual competition day because of the "floating" factor one feels when they compete. It's almost as if you have an out of body experience and you are so ultra focused that nothing can stand in your way.
Thirdly, the double twisting double back was the very first one that I had ever done at the end of the routine that I performed in Beijing. I'm crazy like that. I have always been. My old coach, Kelly, reminded me that when I was younger I used to always throw harder dismounts in competition, but that I always managed to do them cleanly. I guess I felt like I needed to lay it all on the line. If I was going to try and make finals then I would need to do the hardest routine that I was capable of. If I would have done a full twisting double back then I would be down .1 in start value and that could have made the difference. I had done a few double doubles in training at home, but I did a couple during the training here and they felt really good. I knew that I had this skill in my back pocket and I guess I kind of subconsciously decided a few days before the competition that I was going to do this...I just didn't tell anyone.
So there you have it...a couple of small victories secretly embedded into a large one*
After my floor routine, I came off of the podium and couldn't find Susan (my physio) fast enough!
We had had a physio session the night before the competition and I broke down a little bit. It was so overwhelming to think of the journey that had gotten me to this point. I knew that I wouldn't be focusing on this emotional stuff during the competition day so I kind of let my guard down the night before and thanked Susan for everything that she had done to get me to this point. I had many dreams during rehab about the moment when I stepped off of the floor and she was the one that I imagined myself sharing this very special moment with. This, for me, was one of those deja-vu-Ah ha moments you experience when the world seems like it is spinning just as it was intended to.
I was pretty tired after my routine, but I was also very excited and proud. I had done my job and that was all that I could do. I impatiently waited for the score...
As 15.525 came up on the score board I was a little shocked. I expected more for my efforts. I guess I was in a little bit of ecstasy and I was really focused on all of the positive vibes that my brain and body were evoking. I thought that I had done better than that. I felt like my routine was worth atleast a little bit more. But, on the same page, I was happy. I knew that I couldn't go back out there and show it again. I knew that I had risen to the occasion as best I could and I needed to be content with that. Inside, I had a glimmer of hope that this score would hold up and carry me to the finals, but I also knew that there were still some really good guys still left to come and that my chances were slim.
It is so crazy how you can go from the highest of highs and then have your euphoric dream crushed a little bit in an instant...and by something you have absolutely no control over.
* Another side note: Looking back at my routine, the hops and steps that I took were definitely costly. I thought that my first pass had only a small hop, but it was pretty large. The side step that I took on my dismount was pretty big as well. I think those were the deciding factors. Of course, you can't look back and change the past, and I don't think I would, but it just sucks to know that you did your absolute best and it wasn't quite good enough in the judges eyes! *
After floor, I watched my team nail there pommel horse routines one by one. As each guy came off with a hit routine, the energy was infectious. You could see the relief in everyone's eyes when it was all over. We did our jobs.
It's a little sad to look back on this moment because this was the pinnacle of what we had been working towards. We put so many hours, so many routines and so much heart into this competition. We spent the past few months together every single day, working towards this exact moment, and it was impossible to make it's existence infinite. Why couldn't we have just pushed the pause button on the world and shared in the victories together for a little longer than 2 mins? haha. I think we did a pretty good job of capturing the moment and sealing it in our minds forever, but I think it would be so awesome to have the opportunity to revisit that exact moment, with all of the sights, smells and sounds, for just another moment. It was very rewarding and relieving all at the same time.
And that is where it ended.
Of course, I have grown a lot in the last year and realized that this Olympics was a true victory for me as an individual and for the team. I wouldn't change a thing. In fact, I am learning more and more that this was exactly the way that things were supposed to turn out.
What I have learned in the past year about the value of personal victory vs the value placed on an Olympic medal is incredible. It's not a MEDAL that makes you successful or victorious...and that has taken me a long time to wrap my head around and accept. But now that I have, I feel very liberated and free. You are a champion for many more reasons than just being THE best. You are a champion for being YOUR best.
I have been through an incredibly emotional journey over the past year since Beijing. I feel like I have been in a bit of a free fall, trying to figure out exactly what my experiences have meant, who I am and what life has to offer without competitive sport being the driving force behind everything I do.
Some days are brilliant; full of possibilities and optimism. Other days are dark and very much controlled by a feeling of emptiness and filled with questions of what comes next.
Moving forward, I am going to make a diligent effort to continue being real on my blog. I want to continue writing because it's something I love. And a year after competing in my last Olympic Games seems like a really good time to start being analytical, reflective and open about my personal experiences once again.
Happy One Year Anniversary, Beijing! Thanks for the memories and the lessons!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Today is a bittersweet day. I am really overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia, excitement, sadness and anticipation.
When I started gymnastics I could never have imagined the experiences I would have, the relationships I would build and the lessons that I would learn during the journey. All I wanted to do was to flip across the floor, bounce on the trampoline and play in the foam pit!
But something was triggered inside of me soon after I began. A dream was born. I wanted to be an Olympic Champion. That, to me, was the ultimate!
I spent many nights laying in bed and imaging what it would feel like to win an Olympic Games. It became my obsession and the driving force behind everything that I did. I talked about, I wrote about it, I thought about it and I worked towards it.
Qualifying to my first Olympic Games in 2000 was such a monumental moment in my career. I can still picture myself screaming and jumping around my parent’s house when I found out that I would be going. I consider it my “experience” Olympics. I learned many important lessons including: you can’t feel your legs when you are competing in your first Olympics! I got a tattoo, met tons of new friends from around the world and attended every party possible. But these games also opened my eyes to the possibilities. I knew that in 2004, I didn’t want to just participate again, I wanted to win.
Standing on the floor in Athens, literally staring directly in the face of my dream still brings me chills. I don’t know how I didn’t puke all over the mat! I didn’t because in that moment, I was ready. It was almost as if I was immersed in the dream and everything fell into place at just the right moment. I have never fought so hard to stick a landing in my life as I did on that day. I wanted it so bad! It was such a compelling feeling to know that I had done my absolute best at the exact moment that it mattered the most.
I will never forget the state of shock and total elation that I felt as I stood on the podium. My first instinct was to look at the medal. I couldn’t stop staring. I couldn’t stop questioning if this was actually reality! It wasn’t until the next day that it clicked in that was an Olympic Champion. It felt so surreal!
I thought that this was the pinnacle. And in many ways it was. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was the lessons that were in store for me in the years to come.
Breaking my legs and having the course of my Olympic path redirected in an instant was something that has left me forever changed. Fighting back to compete in the 2008 Games made me come back to that dreamer that I once was. I learned so much about myself during those 11 months. I realized that there is more than one way to win.
When I competed in Beijing, I felt so inspired. I was a warrior, ready for battle! I knew that I had earned that opportunity through every hour of excruciating rehab. I knew that no matter what the outcome, I was going to be proud of my effort. I realized in Beijing that sport is about much more than winning Olympic medals.
Sport is about the challenges. Sport is about the relationships. Sport is about everything that goes into the opportunity of even having a chance. Those final moments may decide your fate, but they do not make you who you are. It’s the journey that does.
My journey overflowed with incredible support. I would have never been able to achieve my goals without the giant team that stood behind me.
I want to take a moment to say thanks.
To my parents, Nola and Wes. They always supported my dream and never questioned it. When I was a kid proclaiming that I would win the Olympics one day, they believed me and did everything they could to help me get there. They paid the bills, worked the fundraisers and chauffeured me around town. They were in Athens and I couldn’t pee in that drug testing cup fast enough so that I could share the gold with them.
To my brother, Scott – he played a background role, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he taught me my first cartwheel. He used to bug me about getting a “real” job, but when I returned from Athens he apologized for those comments.
To all of my extended family – I have been a “no show” at many family functions, but they have always been there to celebrate with me when I get home.
To my “non gymnastic” friends – I know that I kind of disappeared for long lengths of time and spent a lot of time at the “gym” (some probably thought that I was running on treadmills and lifting free weights rather than flipping, swinging and conditioning), but they were always there to help me to keep a balance in my life.
To Kelly Manjak – my first coach, a man who was there with me from the beginning of my career until we won in Athens. He instilled the love of gymnastics into me. He is still a close friend today and really, we are more like family. He is world's best coach.
To the Altadore Gymnastic Club – my first club and the environment where I was able to develop. I spent so much time there that I could consider it my second home.
To Tony Smith – a man who took me on and kept me motivated after Athens. Tony and I created a very special bond in the 4 years that we worked together. He re-energized me and continually reminded me that my potential was unlimited. He is the most dedicated coach I have ever met.
To the University of Calgary Gymnastics Centre – I felt welcome from the very first day I joined the club. I always felt like everyone there was willing to do so much to see us as, a team, succeed. I felt that everyday and it made a huge difference.
To my team mates – who provided me with endless hours of entertainment, motivated me, pushed me and inspired me with their passion. It was a phenomenal experience to achieve best ever finishes with a group that worked so well together.
To all of the support staff that I worked with over the years. Dr.Lun, Dr.Mohtadi, Ed Louie, Gord McMorland, Kelly Anne Erdman, Mac Read, Diana Perez – you are all phenomenal at your crafts.
There is one member of this team who had a deep impact on me - Susan Massitti. Whom I like to call My red headed guardian angel. She flew back to Canada with me when I broke my legs, fought with the airline to get me an upgraded seat, she held my hand as I passed out from anethestic and she played such an integral role in my comeback. I often threatened to kill her when she was poking me with acupuncture needles, but she knows that I was only joking. Susan went above and beyond and has left a very special impression on my heart.
To the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary – this is an incredible group of people who bend over backwards to make sure athletes needs are met…and let me tell you…we athletes have a lot of needs!
To Gymnastics Canada – who took a risk on sending an inexperienced 17 year old to earn a place at the Olympic Games. I always felt supported and was allowed the freedom to peak when I knew I could.
To the Alberta Gymnastics Federation – by far the most supportive gymnastics federation in the country. Did you know that 5 of the 6 men who represented Canada in 2008 were from Alberta? I know that the strong tradition will continue.
To the Canadian Olympic Committee – who helped me in many ways. They asked what I needed to be world class, I told them and they delivered.
To Agenda Sport Marketing – who worked so hard to make sure I could focus solely on training. They busted their tails and I am really looking forward to keeping them very busy in the future!
To the media- Thank you for helping me tell my story. It has been a privilege to work with you all.
To My major sponsor, Bell - I was a part of the team for 5 years and I always felt a huge amount of support. It was an incredible partnership that helped me to realize both my personal and gymnastic goals. Bell and I have a strong relationship that I am hopeful we can maintain in the future.
And a special thank you to you, the readers of this blog.
Thank you everyone for your support and belief in me. I am truly moved and forever grateful.
I will miss my career as a gymnast and I will miss all of the incredible people that were a part of it, no doubt. Nothing can replace what this sport has given me. It has played a vital role in who I am today and it will continue to influence who I want to become in the future.
And the future starts right now.
When I look towards my future, I want to leave a legacy that runs rich. I want to make a difference. I want to contribute to sport and the community in a positive way. I am not 100% sure of what my future looks like, but I do know that I am very excited to create it.
I have a lot of new and interesting projects in the works.
Starting right away, I am excited to be moving into an ambassador role with Gymnastics Canada where I will have the opportunity to promote the sport and have an impact on a whole new generation of Olympic gymnasts.
I will also be joining the broadcasting team to cover the Canadian National Gymnastics Championships on CBC at the beginning of June, an opportunity that I hope extends many many years.
Further into the future, I have BIG plans.
A friend and I have developed a new television show concept called YouthCAN! and we have been shopping it around with some strong interest. We are waiting to hear back from YTV with their feedback.
I hope to open a recreational gymnastics centre here in Calgary called Kyle Shewfelt’s Golden Gymnastics Centre. I want it to be a place where thousands of people can be exposed to the wonderful sport of gymnastics, be active and have way too much fun.
I have been writing a book basically since the beginning of my career so I hope that I can get this story published and share some of my experiences and lessons. Writing is one of my greatest passions.
I am also looking forward to excelling in my keynote speaking career. I have had many great opportunities to share my story and I am looking forward to telling it with the perspectives I have gained from this new conclusion.
I have some role models, fellow Canadian Olympic Gold Medallists, who I look towards as great examples of athletes who made incredible transitions away from sport. Some of those include Catriona Le May Doan, Cassie Campbell, Beckie Scott, Mark Tewksbury and Marnie McBean. I see the impact that they have made since retiring and I want to create a legacy in much the same way that they have.
In all honesty, this is a very hard time for me. The unknown is very scary. But I am looking forward to this next phase of my life. It is going to be amazing, fulfilling and I trust that it will be filled with the same amount of passion and purpose that I have enjoyed during my career as a gymnast.
I have no regrets. Not a single one. I am so proud of my career and can’t help but to shed a tear (or twenty thousand! -I've been a bit of a bawling mess while writing this) when I realize that I literally got to live my dream.
It couldn’t have been more brilliant!
Here's to the future and all of the amazing things to come! Stay tuned for many updates.
Officially a non-gymnast but always a gymnast at heart,
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Just a quickie.
It's my 27th Birthday today! Yipee! I don't feel 27...more like 7 :) That, to me, is a great thing! I am going to have a fun filled day that will conclude with a mad yoga session and some delicious sushi. Can life get any better?? I think not.
I got home from Thailand a few days ago and the trip was absolutely amazing. I didn't bungee jump, but I definitely grew and evolved in many ways. Check back soon for some pics.
Many exciting updates to come! There's a lot going on in the world of Kyle.
I love life.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
So, I have been a bad little blogger. Updates have been very hard for me to muster lately. Life has been wonderfully hectic.
Taking the easy way out isn't my forte, but I'm afraid it has to happen in order for me to bring everyone up to date.
This is horrible, but I'm gonna do it anyway.
So, without further ado, Here's what's been going on:
I have been traveling alot lately.
I went snowboarding for the first time ever. It was a great weekend with tons of debauchery and hilarity. I fell so many times that I lost count and I loved every minute of it! My poor tail bone was a little bruised by the end of the adventure. At one point, I thought that I had my skills down so I decided to try a Blue run...not a good idea! I caught the lip of my board and ended up sliding backwards on my back half way down the mountain with snow flying in my face the entire time. 'Slopes and Hoes' was the theme of the weekend. If you haven't seen the movie 'Step Brothers' then you have no clue what I'm talking about. Trust me, it was priceless!
Then I went to Idaho for the Great West Gym Fest and handed out awards and such. It was a great time! (Amazing competition...very inspiring group of visionaries who put it all together).
Then I was in Ottawa for the Canadian Sport Awards where I won the "Spirit of Sport Story of the Year Award". This was a huge honour for me! The award was created to recognize an inspirational sport story that touched the hearts of Canadians and demonstrated the true spirit of sport; not necessarily winning medals, but demonstrating leadership and sport values. It was so awesome to be recognized :)
After Ottawa, I was in Toronto. It was great to spend some very quality time with my former coach and best friend, Kelly, and his beautiful family. I loved reconnecting and being able to have some really special bonding time with my little nephews, Barrett and Anderson. I also had a wonderful and very productive meeting about a new tv show that I have in the works. More on that later...
After Toronto I was in Calgary for a week and then I was off to Florida. I was there taking a course called Co-Active coaching. It's a "life coaching" course, but I am not super fond of that title. I like to call it "personal wellness consulting". It is through the Coaches Training Institute (www.thecoaches.com) and it was a really challenging and eye opening experience. It gave me some neat ideas and left me wanting more.
After Florida, I came home and had an inkling to start pushing myself a little more in the direction of my future...so, completely out of my ordinary, I booked a trip to Thailand! Holy crap!
I am off this morning for an entire month. I am super excited...and a little scared too! But that's the whole point. I am packing a back pack and I have no idea where I'll end up. This is SO not typical "Kyle" style, but I know that it will be good for me:) It's exactly what I need right now to propel myself forward.
So, you're probably wondering where training fits into all of this traveling. Well, in all honesty, I have been making some other things a priority right now. I am keeping very fit (I have been doing tons of yoga and working out) and I feel really healthy and strong.
I feel like this trip to Thailand is going to be a great opportunity for me to clear my head, have some adventure and get a plan together for what direction I am going to be heading in. I don't know exactly where my heart is leaning. I feel like I am finally starting to come down and gain some perspective after a very tiring, exciting and trying year. I think a lot of athletes who competed in Beijing are feeling this way. It's tough coming home and having to restart your life. It's tough to see the big picture because you are continually living in the past and replaying your Olympic experience, and everything that led up to it, over and over again in your head.
I don't know what will transpire while I'm away. I have a couple of plans. The first being 'have no plan'! Second, I want to have tons of fun, like, 'laugh till your belly hurts' kind of fun. Third, I want to meet as many people as possible and just be Kyle, not Olympic gymnast Kyle. Fourth, I want to push myself far beyond my comfort zone - will I bungee jump??? And lastly, I want to write a lot, reflect and listen to my heart and not my head.
I also have a little update about a new development in my life. I have been seeing someone new for a little while now. Her name is Kristin. I met her at yoga and she made sure to point out that I am really bendy, but I am a yoga cheater! haha. I liked that. She has been really growing on me. We are actually going to be traveling to Thailand together. She is exactly what I need in my life right now. She pushes me, she is incredibly hilarious and she instills a huge amount of confidence in me. I am trying not to delve too deep into where this relationship is heading. I just want to enjoy it for every ounce of greatness that is it right now. Nothing more, nothing less.
Well, I should wrap this up. It's 1am and I have some packing to do!
Stay tuned for a Thailand update...if not in April, then in May when I get back!
Keep smiling and enjoy the blossoming of Spring ;)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It was a video of a close friend who is on the adventure of a lifetime.
She was strapped in by her ankles and standing on top of a bridge. You could tell that she was facing fear head on and you knew, you just knew, that she was determined to conquer it. The way she stepped towards the edge was something that I have never seen in her before. She had courage and excitement. They counted down: 5...4...3...2...1...and she leapt off the bridge and took the plunge (or bunge!). Bungee jumping in New Zealand. OMFG!
While I watched I was proud, scared and I found myself feeling a little bit envious. She is pushing her boundaries and I can honestly say that I would have never imagined it to be possible...until I saw it with my own 2 eyes.
I think that that moment is very symbolic and it will be a transcendent one in her life. It's like she told the world, "Screw you! I am brave. I am sick of always making the "right" decisions. I am sick of standing on the edge of this bridge, contemplating what comes next. I am ready to start living"!!! And with that strength behind her decision, she dove into a new realm of herself; full of confidence, awareness and ready to stop settling with just standing on the edge.
It got me to thinking; my life is seriously lacking adventure. My life is wonderful, but I am still sitting perched in the middle of comfort. I am not pushing myself as far as I should be.
This quote comes to mind:
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away" - Anonymous
I have had quite a few moments in my life that have been beyond the point of thrilling, adrenaline pumping and dream like. My breath has been taken away on numerous occasions. But at the moment, I feel a little trapped in comfort.
Removing ourselves from our comfort zones is the only way that we can learn, grow and evolve. I continually encourage others to push themselves, disregard judgment and to start living the life that they want. But am I preaching something that I am actually internally afraid of committing to myself?
I tried to make a list of everything that I want to experience in my lifetime...I was sadly disappointed. There was nothing that I felt like I needed or wanted to do. Of course I have goals and dreams, but there was nothing that I could write down with full confidence that got me excited about adventure. It was an epiphany moment for me actually...how can someone have nothing on their bucket list?
This needs to change.
Another friend and I were out for a coffee the other day and he mentioned that he wants to live experiences and not read about them. I thought that was pretty profound and poetic. Reading and dreaming about something is always a great way to get ideas, but you can never be changed by an experience until you have lived it.
I almost feel as if I need to take a giant risk of some sort. I don't know what that risk needs to be though. Should I go on a trip, all on my lonesome? Should I move to somewhere entirely new? Should I go bungee jumping??!
The good thing is that I have a plan for my future. But it is a safe plan. It is a plan that I know will bring me lots of joy and excitement, but it is a plan that just might have me feeling like I am wrapped in comfort. My plan revolves a lot around what I know. And this is scaring me a bit. I don't want to look back on my life and wish that I had 'lived' and 'learned' more.
What is on your adventurous 'things to do' list?
For the time being, while I contemplate mine, I guess I will just tie up my feet with a bungee cord and pretend that I am diving into a new realm of myself...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
- Nelson Mandela
Although I am not a believer in God, I really like this quote. I just skim past the "God" parts...it still works.
I believe that we all have the potential to do amazing things for this world.
Don't be afraid! Live with all the passion and greatness that is inside of you. Let it radiate. Be the absolute best version of yourself. Don't let judgment, fear or insecurity control the amount of awesomeness that you will show the world. Be all that you are and be damn proud of it. Our world is pretty beautiful, but imagine how much it would glow if everyone lived and embraced their gifts. If this was to be reality, I can picture happy faces popping up everywhere. How cool would that be? (And no, I've never done and will never do LSD so I can actually see this! haha.)
Today, try to outwardly project the light that you have within. Smile, laugh...don't be so serious. Dance in your car if you feel like it. In all reality, nobody cares. In fact, you acting goofy might silently give permission to the person next to you to do the same.
I hope that your day today is groovy, goofy and very satisfying. Be that amazing version of yourself that you know is within.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
- Mahatma Gandhi
This quote stood out to me. I believe it is very true.
We spend so much of our lives thinking about what we "should" be doing. We spend countless hours focusing on everything that we would like to be. Often, we wish we were somewhere else and doing something else.
I challenge you to to think, speak and act in a way that are all supportive of each other.
As the New Year quickly progresses, try to take a moment to reflect on the past 17 days and ask yourself this question: "Have I been living each day experiencing and projecting happiness"?
Many believe that happiness is something that you can 'achieve'. A common thought is: "If I can just get ________, then I will be happy".
I beg to differ. Happiness is a choice. It's a state of mind. It's acceptance of yourself, your thoughts and your actions.
In this New Year, I have been making a conscious effort to look around and observe my surroundings. Fact is, I have seen a lot of unhappiness.
One example: I was driving the other day and I saw a man in his BMW going mach 10 and risking his life (and the lives of others!) just to get past a slower truck. He was in the merging lane, sped past 3 cars and narrowly slipped into traffic with only meters to spare before he would have slammed into a median.
My question is, "Was it worth it"?
Later, that same BM dub was one car in front of me at the next set of lights. I admit, I chuckled. Sucka! But I also felt sorry for the poor dude. Risk vs Reward. I don't think the risk paid off.
This got me thinking...this gentleman either had an endowment issue (teenie weenie) or he was chasing happiness in the same way that he was chasing a position in the line of traffic.
When one is happy, they can let the little things brush past them. Arriving at your destination 2 minutes later because you are behind a slow moving truck, in the grand scheme of things, is not worth risking a potential car accident.
Many in this life are always trying to get ahead. The desperation and insecurity in their being is so evident by their actions.
Another example: I was speaking with a close family member whom I adore. They are struggling slightly to find a balance. They are overwhelmed and feel sometimes as if they are spinning out of control. In fact, they are letting themselves believe that they are losing control of their actions.
In reality, unless experiencing chemical issues in the brain, we are always always always in control of our actions. Actions are choices.
We can always have an excuse. Being too tired, having too much to do, not feeling "up to it"...these are common excuses that we give ourselves as to why we are not in a place in our life where we are truly happy. But the thing is, we usually know within ourselves what we need to do in order to feel happy. Why do we avoid these things? I do it. You probably do it. We all do it! But seriously, it sounds so simple...stop thinking about doing it and just friggin do it! Geez.
We tend to let ourselves reach a breaking point. We get fed up with our actions and we start taking action. One of my goals for 2009 is to not let myself get to the point of guilt and stress based on all of the things that I think I should be doing. I want to continually be taking action and also accept that sometimes not everything works out...ultimately, my happiness is up to me.
We can not rely on others to make us happy. Yes, people can contribute to us having a good time, smiling and laughing, but that is just happiness on the surface. Inner happiness, that calm, peaceful and accepting happiness is a state of mind that can only be found within.
We can not control anything in this world besides our own thoughts, our own words and our own actions.
Have you ever met someone who just beamed an incredibly beautiful light? I think we have all encountered someone of this nature. Why don't all of us project this energy?
I believe it's because everyone feels like they are not good enough. They are judging themselves and they are judging everyone around them. I am trying very hard not to judge. I am making an effort to be more accepting. I am genuinely trying to show love and interest to everyone I meet. I have seen the direct effects of this action. I feel a deeper connection with the world, a stronger connection with myself and a new, very refreshing view on life.
Maybe it's been all the yoga I've been practicing that is helping me on this journey of acceptance. It does have a profound effect on the way you see the universe. Looking through your own eyes at the world and at yourself, without judgement, makes you feel so at ease. It's almost as if you want to let that poor jerk cut in front of you in traffic. Please. Go Ahead. It's all good. Whoops, almost hit me there. But that's OK because I think life is grand! Euphoria is so fun.
Happiness is within. Happiness radiates. I encourage you to start thinking, speaking and living like you're immersed in your ultimate life of happiness!
Thursday, January 01, 2009
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes."
I'm choosing to enter this new year with an optimistic, energetic and open minded attitude.
What attitude will you choose?
Happy New Year! I wonder what crazy things 2009 has in store??