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,