Olympic InspHERation

What do I know about Canada’s historic achievements in winter sports? About as much as I know of our second language – rien du tout. Regardless, I’m a proud Canadian and athlete. So on the opening day of the 2018 Winter Games, I was all about being #UpWithCBC to meet three phenomenal Olympic skiers – all women, and all gold medalists.

At 8:30 AM, the main floor atrium of the sky-lit Toronto CBC building was a hub of early nine-to-fivers arriving to work, and eager fans lined up for pancakes, photos and autographs. I bypassed the pancakes and went straight for the photos and autographs.

Though I lined up with my autograph card in hand, the takeaway I was keen on wasn’t the memento signed in ink. It was the lasting impression of speaking with athletes who had achieved the pinnacle of success in their sports.

So what would I say to three Canadian skiing champions when I didn’t know a bowl from a berm? (thanks for that skis.com)

There, face-to-face with Olympic gold medalists, Karen Lee-Gartner, Jennifer Heil and Beckie Scott, I owned my ignorance and related to them as the mature and curious female athlete I am.

Wise Words

Karen Lee-Gartner, now 51 years-old, won gold at the 1992 games at the age of 25.

Sprinting certainly feels different for me now than it did 26 years ago as a teenager, and I wondered if that experience was the same in elite athletes. My question for Karen was how performing in her sport differs now as an older adult.

Prefaced with a smile and knowing nod, she remarked on how today’s equipment makes skiing easier on her body than before. But more interestingly, Karen spoke of a necessary mental shift she has made with age. An athlete through-and through, she still likes to go fast but having sustained brain injury, she now assesses risk in a way she hadn’t before.

While my athletics events (60m, 100m, 200m sprints) don’t involve the same measure of risk, Karen’s point was one I took to heart. When an (arguably unnecessary) box jump fail landed me on my back during training recently, the thought of an injury affecting everything from my training to parenting was a swift lesson in risk-benefit assessment.

Supafitmama with Karen Lee-Gartner
Feeling golden with Karen Lee-Gartner

The Long And Short Of It

Beckie Scott has two Olympic medals in a sport I’ve yet to watch even once and honestly never imagined taking interest in. With sincerity and the utmost respect, I asked, “For people like me who have never seen cross-country skiing, what makes it exciting to watch?”

Delighted to talk about a sport she clearly loved, Beckie explained that it was about “the grit, the endurance and the resilience.” With running as my frame of reference, I thought of it parallel to the marathon.Β  “Yes”, she agreed, but clarified that within cross-country there are different events including a team sprint.

She must have seen my eyes widen at the mention of a sprint. I suspect she realized in that moment, that she’d found the hook that might actually get this track and field lover tuned in to a cross-country race.

The team sprint event she described, consists of two teammates taking turns around the course, switching off relay-style, and repeating until the race is completed. So again, with running as my frame of reference, this event was essentially like death by 200m repeats, LOL.

Lasting Impressions

Like the other fans who lined up to meet Karen, Jennifer and Beckie that morning, I wore their medals, posed for pictures, and thanked the women for their autographs. I appreciate these souvenirs of course, but left with a more significant impression from the morning.

Situated in the presence of these world-class female athletes, I felt a sense of excellence, power and kinship. I felt an indescribable energy, an incredible sense of determination, and a belief in all I can do. Perhaps some would call it girl power. I’m going to call it inspHERation and hope that I can pass it on.

Supafitmama with Jennifer Heil


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