Thursday, May 21, 2009

Officially Retiring

After much thought and consideration, I have come to the decision that it’s time to hang up the grips, put away the stinky gym shoes, remove the singlet, take my hands out of the chalk bucket and start embarking on new journeys.

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,



Rick McCharles said...

Thanks for all the great years, Kyle.

And good luck with your many future ventures and adventures.

If you can succeed in gymnastics, you can succeed in anything!

meli-mello said...

Very moving post Kyle. I'm going to say the typical commenter thing "I don't usually comment on your blog but..." today I just couldn't help it. I have always said that when I have children I am going to put them in gymnastics when they are little - not so they can be althetes or Olympians - but so they can develop a love for movement and retain some of that wonderful childhood flexibility that so many of us lose as well get older. I'm looking forward to being one of the first to sign my daughter up for your new gymnastics club when it opens.

Anonymous said...

You'll be missed a lot, make sure to keep blogging!! Congrats on a big decision and a wonderful career. Good luck with the future!!!

kempton said...

Thanks Kyle for your 2004 win and your absolutely inspirational comeback in 2008. You did the impossible and I am so inspired by what you've achieved over the years.

And your loooong list of thank-yous shows that it really takes a village to nurture an Olympic Champion. And I am sure each and everyone of them appreciate your thanks. (And wow, "5 of the 6 men who represented Canada in 2008 were from Alberta". :) )

Wishing you all the best in what you choose to do. Looking forward to the new projects that you are going to launch.

P.S. re your new television show concept called YouthCAN and discussion with YTV. You know the Banff World TV Festival is coming up from June 7-10 in Banff? Banff is a great place to be to meet with TV executives from around the world (Canada, US, UK, Japan, China, etc). It is worth checking out. More info in this link. Let me know if I can share what I know.

P.P.S. Have fun and good luck working at CBC in June.

Dana said...

I just saw you on CBC - you are a legend Kyle.
Thanks for the inspiration and the joy
The sport will never be the same - thanks to you!

Anonymous said...

I'll miss watching your phenomenal career, but am glad that you will continue to be so involved in the gymnastics community.
You have such a positive energy that shines on you and everyone around you. I think that is an amazing quality of yours.
Good luck to you in everything you choose to do in the future, I know you will succeed!


Sunshine said...

All four kids in my family went to the gymnastics club in Altadore. My older sister and I were each there for about seven years, and she even helped with some coaching. While none of us ever competed, we always loved to go back for more. The coaches were phenomenal - so friendly and helpful. My experience in gymnastics has served me well over the years, giving me a helpful advantage in almost every other sport I have ever been exposed to. You're right: sport isn't just about winning medals (although that's pretty awesome too). It's fun, it's healthy, and it makes you a better person. I hope you are able to open your own gymnastics club - someday I'd like to send my kids there, to give them a taste of what we love about gymnastics.

Annapurna Moffatt said...

I'll miss watching you compete.

"And a special thank you to you, the readers of this blog." You're welcome!

Good luck on the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...

I'm an occasional gymnastics follower who read that you were retiring and just wanted to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Your gymnastics has always been a pleasure to watch, but most of all I've been impressed by the great attitude that you show in and out of the gym - in competitions, interviews, and here on your blog.

Thanks for representing Canada so well. Enjoy whatever comes next!


Kushan said...

I,ll miss ur stuck landings......

may U have all the landings stuck in ur new life floor routine.

I know u can :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulation's Kyle on a job well done. You have inspired many other to follow their dreams.

Good luck in the future.

Lily said...

Aww... but all those cool new projects sound awesome~
I've never posted on your blog before, but just wanted to let you know you have another huge fan in me... (:

Anonymous said...

Hey Kyle,

My parents, like yours, did the self-sacrifice thing (far too much in my opinion) to help me and my old club. Tony Smith, George Novak and Dave Dyer took me under collective wing back then and influence me still, probably more than they know. My folks and I remember Kelly as a young, friendly coach when he came to Ortona, and we first started enjoying stories about you because it let us know how he was doing. It was good to see him (and you) doing well. Anyway, mom sent me this article and it motivated me to come and comment on your blog:

One day in the gym that I can remember vividly also involved rope-climbing. My 'career' had been over for some time, but I was still keeping involved with the UBC team under Jeff Thomson. Jeff climbed the rope with 25 lbs around his neck. (I remember it being 50 lbs, but I think that's ego invading memory.) He challenged me to try and of course I tried, and although I couldn't do it, I was proud of trying. And I think everyone else there was proud of me, too. Looking back, it was the most successful thing I'd done in quite some time to prove to myself that somewhere deep inside I still had the competitive fire that had served me well in my younger days. Seriously, despite being in my 20's at the time, I now think of that as being important in who I am today.

You don't need to prove your spirit to yourself any more, I imagine. Or you shouldn't. Nevertheless, I predict that there will be days when you'll wonder if you still have 'it'. I recommend that you seek out challenges, even little ones, that can confirm the presence of 'it' for you.

Since about the mid-90's I've been supervising an adult drop-in for a couple of hours per week. So many ex-gymnasts I meet there have gone on to do fantastic things, but these are the ones who have been away from gym for some time. Each one of them went through a period of loss when they hung 'em up. More-recently retired gymnasts that I meet often seem a bit uncertain and lost. I know that's how I felt. So I understand that you feel anxiety about the changes to come -- try not to be too worried about the unsettled feelings that will probably arise.

Sorry for posting this unsolicited preachy stuff. I guess I just wanted to say, retired gymnasts are dedicated and creative people who have a lot to offer both the gymnastics world and The World. You've clearly got a lot of great things ahead of you and wonderful plans. I hope over the next few years, if you're down and doubting about these plans or new dreams, you can draw on the knowledge that doubts are normal and maybe even critical for achieving fulfillment in the future. Best wishes,

Steve Latham

PS I see Mark Tewksbury among your retirement role models. I'm sure he has said more eloquently, forcefully, meaningfully everything I've tried to write above. Er, so, ditto to what he said.

PPS Hi Rick!

Anonymous said...

So sad to know that we are losing such an important facet of the true "artistic" side of the sport with the announcement of your retirement, Kyle. Still, best wishes in all your future endeavours.

... and thank you for the memories :-)

George Novak

lawlessonplan said...

gosh i found myself in tears after reading your post, and to think i only found out about how incredible of a gymnast you are after the beijing olympics! you have a great set of people behind you who love you and supported you in your career, i think, because you inspire them and give to them as much as they give to you. congratulations and all the best!

Alison said...

Congrats on your retirement old man. You made our country proud in Athens. I can't imagine the Gym world without you. But I guess there will be another little boy who looked up to you, and is looking to fill your shoes.

Again, you made your country proud, and mostly the Gym world proud. Best of luck in your future endeavors. and never forget the little guys, cause it was us who believed in you from the start.

Congratulations again friend. You have done a great, great job.

GOLD always

Lindsay said...

i have been a gymnast my entire life and also had to move on after having shoulder surgery. im only 16 and i totally understand every single thing you said. you are a true inspiration and watching you get through your injury helped me get through mine. thank you so much,and i hope you know what you have done for at least one person.

Dez said...

Kyle I wish you the Future. life has hit me hard and made me who I am. I still got an album to finish and I will.

Remember it is not what we do that is happening, it's what is happening inside that counts.

"The Future is Yours"

lonestaroftejas said...

good luck with your new venture, your new life ... fondly, magda ...

Anonymous said...

It has been amazing watching you compete all these years. You have inspired so many athletes and non-athletes likewise. Thank you.
Congratulations on your wonderful career and good luck with the future ! :)

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