Sunday, August 4, 2013

London 2012 Reflections

As some of you may or may not know, I got to interview almost all of our Canadian medalists at the London 2012 Olympic Games. About a month after the games, I sat down at a coffee shop in Brussels (where I was playing Pro volleyball at the time) and wrote down some of my reflections from the games.  Since it's a year anniversary of the 2012 Olympics, I'm finally putting it up on my blog (which I've been terrible at updating!!!).  Hope you take something from it!

Here it is:

September 7, 2012

It may have taken almost a month, but I think I’ve finally recovered from the infamous Post-Olympic Depression.  Many of my Vancouver friends will know what I’m referring too – the abrupt drop off of parties, events and altogether ecstasy that comes from the world-encompassing sporting event creates a lasting nostalgia for days, and apparently in my case, weeks to come.

In the wake of the Olympics, I think it’s finally time that I share my incredible and fortunate Olympic experience with anyone who cares to know.  As many of you already know, I am a Team Canada Volleyball player who had her hopes set on being in London for the 2012 Olympics as an athlete.  However in April, days before the Olympic Qualification tournament in Mexico, I found out that I would not be representing Canada on the Roster.  To add to this already heartbreaking news, the Team that did compete at the tournament in Mexico did not qualify; this solidified the fact that there was no chance myself, or any other Team Canada Women’s volleyball player would represent Canada at the Olympics.

In the depression that followed these two tragic events, I received an exceptional offer from the Canadian Olympic Committee – did I want to be involved with Brand Content and Marketing in London for the 2012 Olympics?  Yes!!! Of course! And what does brand content mean!? Not that that really mattered, I was eager to be a part of the games in whatever way possible.

In the weeks leading up to the Olympics, I found out that the Olympic Committee thought it would add an interesting and unique dynamic to have an athlete interviewing Canadian athletes.  I had some journalistic and broadcasting experience, so apparently I was a good fit for this position! I was going to be interviewing the Canadian Olympians who medaled in London, as well as a handful of other Olympians, celebrities, and family and friends of Olympians in London.  Ummmmm, dream job!? 

In the weeks that ensued, I worked with an incredible team in London.  Mike, our producer, kept me in check and made sure I didn’t get too squeamish and star-struck in front of celebrities like Kim Cattrall.  Kristina was my content partner in crime who I giggled with in the elevator on countless occasions after playing paparazzi for Prince Harry or other notable people. We definitely made away with a glass of wine or Molson Canadian from the Canada Olympic House bar when the days turned into nights! On occasion, we even snuck into the P & G lounge for a casual afternoon hair and makeup makeover (trust me, by the end we needed it!)

Our office was situated on the very top floor of the Canadian High Commissioners office in Trafalgar Square.  I felt extremely fortunate to get to call this my office, as the building has been a historic landmark in London dating from the early 19th century.  During the London Blitz in World War II, a bomb landed mere meters away from the building.  Here I was, on the top floor, writing media content about the historic performance of Canadian athletes! I often caught myself staring out the window at the Torch relay passing through, gazing at the London Eye, or even catching glimpses of the replay screen of the Olympic beach volleyball venue at Horse Guards Parade which was right around the corner.  Some decent views to say the least.

There is so much I could write about from my experience during those two weeks. But there are a couple themes that always came up when I was speaking with athletes. What shocked me at first (and being an athlete this really should not have been such a great shock) was how similar we all are. We all like to do our hair and makeup when we get the rare chance away from sports, we all have our cell phones on us to communicate with friends/family back home 24/7, we all really like to relax post-competition with a drink, or 4.

A common word that came up in my interviews with some of the athletes was support.  No matter how successful, sponsored, or famous the athlete, every single one had felt a huge amount of support from a variety of sources, whether that was family, friends, coaches, sponsors or teammates.  I think one thing that can unify us all as athletes, is that we truly cannot accomplish excellence without the support of others.  It would be a scary, lonely world to only train by yourself every day of the week in a canoe, or on a track and field pitch, or in the swimming pool. While most of the determination and inherent desire comes from the heart, the tools to accomplish these incredible athletic feats often come from those around us, encouraging and supporting us along the way.

One of the most memorable medal celebrations that I covered at Canada Olympic House was that of Brent Hayden.  Brent was a no stranger to the Olympics, having been in Athens and Beijing, yet he was a stranger to the Olympic podium…until London. In an epic 50 meter freestyle that literally had everyone in Canada Olympic house on their feet cheering and yelling aggressive chants and encouragements at the screens, Brent came away from the race with a coveted Olympic medal. When he did come to celebrate the medal at COH, not one person in the room had a dry eye during his speech.  He talked about how, in the middle of the race, he thought to himself, “common Brent, this might be your last race, give this everything you’ve got”.  When asked in Gr 3 what he wanted to do when he grew up, he said he wanted to build robots and win an Olympic medal.  He is now half accomplished, now sign this guy up with Pixar or something!! (sorry, I’m not actually aware of who builds robots).  The look on Brents face when he looked at the medal and held it up for everyone to see was “holy shit, I can’t believe I did it, and I am so in awe but proud of myself”. 

Even though it was mostly positive medal celebrations that filled Canada Olympic House, there were also some very sensitive interviews. These were interviews with athletes who were expected to medal, and had not reached that goal. Without giving names, these were some of the most touching moments of my career as an athlete to date (and yes, I realize I wasn’t even wearing my spandex and knee pads).   Every athlete has had a moment of failure, a moment of humbling, or a moment when they were taken down a notch from the pedestal that they are often placed on. These interviews were some of those true to life examples of sports mentality. Some of these athletes had a hard time talking through their experience, or even putting into words how they felt. It seemed that what made them more upset than anything, wasn’t the fact that they hadn’t accomplished their goal, but that they had let down those who had been with them along the way, whether that was family or even on a grander scale, Canada.

Seeing the tears flow down their faces in the wake of failure even after they had accomplished so much in their career (even just making it to the Olympics) was heartbreaking.  What makes the athlete so incredible is that they set such a high standard of performance goals, which is often not conceivable to the average person. However, to the athlete, these goals are not only attainable, they are the only option and alternative worth fighting for.

Returning to the medal celebrations, one common phrase that always came up was “this is a dream come true” or “I’ve only ever imagined this moment”.  It made me realize that even though we train and prepare for an incredibly hard to achieve goal, those goals are attainable! We still IMAGINED the moment, or DREAMED it, and having the courage to dream up these goals and set off to achieve them is often the hardest hurdle of all to overcome.  

While most of the athletes I talked to have Olympic medals to represent their athletic accomplishments, all I have is the notepad I used for my interviews (Christine Sinclair even borrowed it to jot down some of her notes before her speech at Canada Olympic house!) I hope that through the tumultuous training sessions, grueling physical testing’s and social sacrifices, that Canadian athletes will continue to set incredibly difficult goals for themselves and dream big! Getting to talk to them at the pinnacle of their careers will always be one of the most exceptional experiences of my life, and one that I (at this point in my career at least) will have to live through vicariously.  

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