KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to [Canadian freestyle skier] Jennifer Heil who is one of Canada’s great Olympic athletes.
So Jennifer, when you get ready for an event, what is your perfect day?
JENNIFER HEIL – What is my perfect day? Well my perfect day, it doesn’t matter the weather, it is about dealing where I am at in that moment. I like perspective, I am in a sport that is a bit crazy – we have to ski four moguls a second, we have to jump 30 metres in the air, and it is not logical. So I have to always play with my perspective.
I came up against a lot of fear, one of my dear friends was paralyzed in my sport. The fear of winning, the fear of losing, I had to deal with those on a daily basis. So my perfect day is taking where I am at that day and trying to be a little bit better at the end of that day. So whether it is the emotional resiliency, the mental resiliency, and having fun and letting go. There is nothing like being on that edge where you are once second from blowing up but you are in complete control, and that is the best feeling I’ve ever experienced.
KARL MOORE – A few times you must have lost control.
JENNIFER HEIL –Yup.
KARL MOORE – That is a terrifying moment.
JENNIFER HEIL – Yup.
KARL MOORE – I guess that doesn’t last too long though.
JENNIFER HEIL – Well it is over pretty quick. There have been some spectacular crashes out there, we call them ‘full lawnsales’ where your goggles are half-way up the course. And, of course, I have had those moments but again that’s where you dust yourself off and figure out what went wrong.
KARL MOORE – Do you try to get mindfulness before a big race, and just really focus on that moment? Is that something you deliberately work on?
JENNIFER HEIL – What I really focus on in the races is where I am at that day: whether I have injuries I am going through, or where I am at, and really embracing the moment. Really, I think the most important thing for an Olympic athlete is that resiliency, is that control, that emotional control, and that mental control.
For me, I always work [towards] dealing with what I have that day and maximizing that. So that is embracing the moment, that is finding the joy and the challenge, that is where I always was before pushing out of the start gate.
KARL MOORE – Do you do meditation or yoga or anything to help you get there?
JENNIFER HEIL – Yeah, I do a lot of visualization. There was never a run that I did without visualizing it first, there was never a jump I went off without visualizing it first, and I think that is why I didn’t have major injuries. I had a lot of small injuries but I always saw myself doing it first and I take that into my life.
Now that sports is behind me I still do a lot of visualization of different things I am about to do. I did bio-neural feedback before 2010, so that’s where we essentially played videogames with my brain waves and my body functions. We measured four brainwaves, my heart rate, my sweat reflex, my breathing, and I had to control all these aspects and push these things across the screen with my brain. So I am very well-trained and I feel sport has given me many gifts and that is one of them. So, no matter what the experience I am faced with, no matter what the challenge, I have that to draw on.