Since my last update, I am fairly certain my life has never changed so rapidly before. The regular training season kicked off quite slowly. I have never been so sore from doing such little physical activity. We took the longest break from training that I’ve ever had since making a national team in 2009. My last run was on February 9th and I didn’t get back to anything training related until the 28th of April. During that time I had off, I recovered. The Olympics were the most life-changing event I’ve ever been a part of but with that came new and unfamiliar territory. I came home from Sochi different than when I felt. I had a new, unobstructed lens that I could see my world with. I could see just how unhappy I was and how much I desperately needed to make a positive change. I was, in the truest sense of the word, exhausted. I had put so much into the actual training process, I had completed ignored who I was as a person. Upon realizing this, I tried my best to heal and take time to know more about myself.
I am not sure if t was beneficial or not but I slept for roughly 14 hours a day, I watched A LOT of Netflix, I did everything except think about luging. I wasn’t certain if I could possibly muster enough fervor to possibly get back in the gym let alone my sled. I was in this limbo for about 5 weeks until early may. I had reached out to an old friend of my father who worked with Motivate Canada. She had me take part in youth leadership camp in Ottawa. The retreat was a weeklong and it featured youth leaders from all around country between the ages of 16 and 22. Once I arrived, I felt out of place an unusually shy. Shortly after I got into the feeling and I felt more comfortable. The whole premise of “Activate” is to inspire positive change in your community using sport as a catalyst. Throughout the week we were given workshops, speeches, and chances to network with large international organizations like Right to Play. I was right where I belonged. There was something powerful being around 40 other inspiring people who had nothing but positivity. For the first time in a long time, I felt encouraged again to think the good that came from my sport. The conference was the opportunity that I needed to properly reflect on the ordeal that was my season. I came back to Calgary with a new heart.
By the time May rolled around, I was registered in summer classes at the U of C and was back in the gym everyday. I was finally starting to settle back into my regular routine. I worked (fumbled) my way through my first university class only to find out that real school is much harder than high school. On the May long weekend I took the opportunity to travel down to North Dakota to visit my cousins that I hadn’t seen in years. I came back to Calgary just in time to leave on my next adventure; the Post Olympic Excellence series or POES for short. It was the first chance since Sochi that the entire 2014 Olympic team was back together. Reunited at last, we all travelled to Mont Tremblant. The first few days were all about transition; How to transition into a new level of sport, out of sport, or into something new. Just like during Activate I initially felt awkward but soon the tension dissolved and I felt like I was back with my family. We spent the first few day getting debriefs, having heartfelt powwows, various workshops and team building activities. Just as we felt like a cohesive unit, it was time to split up again and face the public. From Tremblant we traveled to Ottawa where we got divided into small grouped and spoke to different school, hospitals, and events. A touch underprepared, we rushed to the first school. I was ushered onto a large stage with two other Olympians. The spotlights were intense and before I knew it I was handed a microphone and I stumbled my way through 8 minutes of (mostly)impromptu speaking. We made our rounds and eventually it was time to reconvene at parliament. Slowly but surely, our group grew in size just before we went into the House of Commons. After a tour of the whole of Parliament, we boarded the busses again to head out west. We scattered to Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer. After speaking to even more important people, schools, and hospitals we headed towards Calgary for the Parade of Champions and Gala evening. Along the way, we stopped in at the Alberta Hall of Fame to speak to a tour group. When we arrived I immediately found my dad’s plaque. After a quick rest in Calgary, we gathered at the top of 8th avenue for the Parade of Champions. My team was grouped with the rest of the bobsledders and we made our way the street in a wagon while being pulled by a tractor. It was very exciting and rewarding to find so many people along the sides of the road supporting us. We finished in Olympic plaza where a large crowd had formed and where we were all officially “White-hatted” by mayor Nenshi. The day closed with everyone getting all dolled up and going to Gala, which was hands down the fanciest event I had every gone to. We rented the entire Saddledome and enjoyed an evening of performances and entertainment. In the end, we raised a whopping 2 million plus dollars for Canadian Athletes. Overall, it was a remarkable experience that I will never forget.
By this time, I had done so much and came so much farther than just laying in bed all day. I was on a roll and I wasn’t prepared to slow down. After my team had finished competition in Russia, I sparked the conversation about coming out. I had mentioned it to a few of my teammates and one of the coaches. Upon arriving home in Canada I brought it attention of my family and finally I was prepared to take the last step and tell the world. I met with all the important people that I could and eventually I sat down with my public relations manager and we came up with a strategy. The plan was that on my 19th birthday, we would release an article in the Calgary Herald. Little did I know how much this would explode and that I would find myself in this kind of position. The morning of my birthday, I stopped by my mom’s house before class for breakfast. She had known the article was about to come out, what neither of us knew was how big would be. I stopped to get gas on my way to school and glanced at the paper in the rack. There it was, front and center of the local newspaper. By the time I got to school my phone was already out of battery from all of the notifications. I had gotten hundreds of messages from friends and strangers alike about the article. In class, one of my friends noted that I had received 1200 twitter followers since last night. I felt overwhelmed. All that I wanted to do was to go to sleep but there was training to be done. I headed out in the rain and went to yoga. I arrived quite early and I ended up chatting about my situation to the instructor. She was fascinated and ended up making the goal of the entire class self-actualization and acceptance. I remember feeling very calmed after that. That evening I had my closest friends over for a quaint barbeque. I had the weight of the world lifted and I had one less thing to think about
I just spent the first few days of my vacation this year in Montreal with my teammate Mitchel Malyk. We came to see the Osheaga Music Festival and it was fantastic. Everything seemed to line up perfectly for the training season. Everyone was supportive and very much so on my side. It was an empowering feeling to know how much I can accomplish given the opportunity. It’s a funny moment when a dream becomes a reality. Writing this on the plane ride home, I can look back on the last three-six months and say they’ve been the most ameliorating period of my life. I have never felt so fulfilled with what I’ve done and myself. Stay tuned folks.