KARL MOORE – Today I am delighted to speak to Jennifer Heil, who is one of Canada’s great Olympic athletes.
Jennifer, you just retired recently – you are one of Canada’s greatest athletes, Woman Athlete of the Year last year – how do you give up your lifelong passion and turn to something else?
JENNIFER HEIL – Sport is very interesting because there is a due date on sport and there is a time that you have to move on. For me, I felt like the time was right – I was fortunate because I had achieved all of my objectives and I wanted to find success off my skis. It’s one small part of my life, my ski career, and it’s hard to know that in the moment, but I wanted to move on to new things, so I felt very comfortable to move on to the next step. I took all that experience with me and some amazing life lessons.
KM – So, what’s the next step? What do you do after that because you have achieved the top in the world, what do you move on to from that?
JH – Well it’s a very unique experience to be 28, to have achieved the top of sport, and to have been working on such excellence and always working towards those finely tuned goals and trying to get absolute excellence and then it’s time to start again. So it’s like you almost have to go back to the very beginning againm and it’s been a very interesting experience and very challenging to challenge myself to go back to that in the first place, where I was when I was 9 years old, where I was learning many new skills. So that’s where I am at right now – I am back in school, back at McGill University full time and just learning a lot of new skills. Obviously a lot that I learned on the ski hill still applies and I take those lessons with me, but it’s fun. The best way to explain it is when I was skiing it was a very narrow focus; it was one objective, to be the best in the world. Thirty seconds to do it. Everything in my life was organized around that goal. Now I have stepped back and have the opportunity to explore new things and to explore what direction I want to go into next and it’s a really fun time in my life.
KM – What things that were part of being an Olympic athlete, do you think, are transferable to business? Where are the parallels that we might not see?
JH – Oh my gosh. The parallels between sport and business are vast. To be honest you can’t really break it down. Like when I get the question, “What’s the difference in winning and Olympic medal? Is it physical or mental?” Well, there is no divide there. So the lessons that I have learned – perseverance, resiliency, commitment, and dedication – all of these things are life long lessons. I think the business world is competitive – it’s moving at a rapid pace and you have to adapt. All of those things I learned in sport and are transferable into business.