Sometimes, you just need to talk. Not to your mom, your coach or barista. Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone who gets it. All of it. Without any judgement or expectations. But, who is that impartial person outside of your normal day-to-day routine?
Simple: Your Athlete Mentors.
By now you know four mentors have been named to the PyeongChang 2018 Mission Team to act as your ultimate sounding board. To listen. To offer perspective on what this Olympic experience is all about. To connect you to a network of people and services.
Just like you, their stories are unique. They know the journey is personal and each of you will experience the Games in your own way. But, it’s up to you to create your story and keep the Games in perspective — to learn from your peers who came before you so you can chart your own path in your own way.
With that in mind, your Athlete Mentors have made it easier for you to start a conversation with them by breaking the ice in this first part of a two-part interview series.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU!
Sport: Speed Skating – Long Track
Olympic Games: Salt Lake City 2002, Nagano 1998, Lillehammer 1994, Albertville 1992
Best results: 2 Gold, 1 Bronze
Retired from the sport: 2003
Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Family: Two kids, Greta (13) and Easton (10)
Current occupation: Senior Director of Community Engagement for Sport Calgary
As an athlete, Catriona needs no introduction. An icon, she dominated in her sport and will forever be an important part of our country’s identity. But, it’s not only her athletic resume that makes her a great leader and mentor, it’s her compassion. And Julien, a former rower with an Olympic story worthy of anyone’s attention, is eager to open up, listen and help you shape your own story. What follows are their candid insights in an interview that should give you a little something to relate to as the Games approach.
What should somebody definitely ask you about when connecting for the first time?
CATRIONA: Coaching my daughter’s ringette team. I hadn’t purchased hockey skates for more than 30 years … and I couldn’t turn right! I’m much better now.
JULIEN: Rowing across an ocean while managing a water phobia.
What is the one thing you would tell your Olympic-rookie self?
CATRIONA: I would have told myself to slow down, to stop for a moment once in a while, and take it all in. Put an imprint on your brain!
JULIEN: To appreciate it more. I was “lucky” enough to win a bronze medal at 22 years old, and I don’t think I appreciated it enough. When you don’t win, you realize how special it is.
Slow down. Stop for a moment once in a while, and take it all in.
What blew your mind at your first Games?
CATRIONA: I am not sure if I would say “blew my mind” … it is just so big. And the process of doing anything takes so much longer (compared to other competitions).
JULIEN: The dining hall in the Village! Don’t try to eat everything on the first day.
What disappointed you at your first Games?
CATRIONA: I would say the process again. You can’t do anything quickly at the Olympics, and for me that tests my patience!
JULIEN: We had a strong team. We won a medal. But for me, it didn’t make a difference. We were a team. What I realized is that the general public and media don’t always see it that way. I learned the hard way (at my next Games) that you can’t expect any special events, or treats or media attention.
What is one thing you appreciated about being around experienced Olympians during Games?
CATRIONA: Sometimes I’m not sure if I know who is experienced and who isn’t. The great thing about Games is that each one is different and has a different spirit. So even if you are a rookie or a vet, it is all kind of new!
JULIEN: Some of my teammates were two or three-time Olympians who had made previous mistakes of their own. I was able to avoid those mistakes by simply listening and trusting their experience … And when we do it, we do it as a team … I thought it was great.
What have the Games taught you about life that you put into practice every day?
CATRIONA: Results do not determine our worth, nor who we are as people.
JULIEN: Success is not measured in medals.
What was the most stressful situation you faced at a Games and how did you manage it?
CATRIONA: I am not sure if there was a single biggest stress… there were always many. But, leading up to the 500m race in 2002, I was expected to defend gold — something no Canadian individual had done at any Games, summer or winter. I was an emotional mess. I faked being confident. I had only a couple key people who knew and could help talk me through it. It was a huge mental battle.
JULIEN: Being the favourite for gold and finishing 10th overall. Even five years later, I still cannot identify the specific reason. Pressure was so high … it hit us pretty hard. I went home, cried and decided I was going to row across an ocean to prove to myself that I was able to perform. Quite extreme.
Success is not measured in medals.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
CATRIONA: I can’t change certain things because it is my personality, but I wish I liked and embraced the racing a bit more (I loved training more than racing due to stress and pressure).
JULIEN: I don’t have any regrets. Everything I have done, I have done it with a sense of purpose, knowing exactly why I was doing it. That way, the outcome is logical. Worst case scenario: you blame yourself. What I did (and still do) was write things down in a diary. It gives me confidence that I am on the road I chose.
EACH IN OUR OWN WAY
When did you realize you wanted to be a high-performance athlete?
JULIEN: When I learned someone believed in my ability … it changed the course of my life.
Did you have a ritual during training/competition?
JULIEN: Drink a pint of beer the evening before a race. It was a way for me to chill and feel like I am like anyone else.
What do you wish you knew about every athlete on the 2018 team?
CATRIONA: What makes them tick … I love hearing personal stories about why athletes choose to compete.
JULIEN:What their spiritual animal is. It says a lot about someone and you can learn your ‘go-to mode’ in any situation.
What were you most anxious about during your Games experience(s)?
CATRIONA: I was always anxious. But, I was a good actor so not a lot of people knew that. I was scared of failing.
What was your most advantageous personality trait at Games?
CATRIONA: I was always chasing the perfect race, so I was never quite satisfied, which means I am always trying.
What was your toughest personality trait at Games?
CATRIONA: I am anxious so that was tough – but I will say I am easily inspired so that helped me as I was inspired by the Games and ideals of Olympism.
TEAM CANADA CULTURE
Can you describe your feelings when opening your first Olympic-Team kit?
CATRIONA: I always love the Olympic gear. Though, in 1992 we had purple and white and I wasn’t quite sure of how that would be embraced! I have never traded any coats or items, so it shows I love it all!
JULIEN: Christmaaaaaaaas! I felt like a kid. And the magic never goes away … We have earned it so we better enjoy it!
The magic never goes away.
How did you feel the first time you saw (or heard about) a Canadian athlete competing at an Olympic Games?
CATRIONA: I remember watching Gaetan Boucher compete and thinking how incredible it would be to do what he did!
What characteristics do you see in Canadian athletes that you don’t see in athletes from other countries?
CATRIONA: I believe in Canada we have such a sense of pride that we represent a small population from a large country. We are always from all corners of our country – all provinces, and territories, and we pride ourselves in representing not just our country as a whole, but our specific communities as well, and I feel this brings our nation together even more than others.
FINAL THOUGHTS …
CATRIONA: I know that Games are incredible and have the power to get us so inspired, and yet also so stressed our. The key is to find how each of us, as individuals, can manage it all, and get to the place where we can have an optimal sport performance.
There is a whole mission team there for whatever you need to give you that extra confidence boost.
Be comfortable with who you are and with the work you have done. In times of stress, we question everything, but know that you are prepared, and there is a whole mission team there for whatever you need to give you that extra confidence boost.
Being a part of Team Canada at the Olympics is something of such pride and also of responsibility. We need to remember that just as we have been inspired by those before us, we have the opportunity to be a role model and inspiration for others. That is what matters most – not results but in how we react to our successes and our struggles. How will we be remembered?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Meet Your Mentors series …