As Karine Sergerie stands on the deck of a boat docked in the old port of Quebec City, she momentarily loses her footing when the Louis Jolliet sways from side to side.
Though she admits to sometimes getting seasick, she quickly regains her composure.
Heading into her second Olympics after winning a silver medal in taekwondo in 2008, the petite athlete is all about staying focused.
So the 27-year-old doesn’t want to dwell on the health issues that have plagued her in the last two years, including hip surgery in 2009.
“I’m conscious you’ll always have challenges in life, no matter what you’re doing, it’s just I didn’t think it would be my health,” she said during the recent unveiling of the Canadian team aboard the Louis Jolliet.
Making sure to live in the moment has become something of a mantra for Sergerie in the four years since the Beijing Olympics.
There, she narrowly lost the 67-kilogram class final 2-1 to Hwang Kyungseon of South Korea, picking up silver in Canada’s best Olympic finish ever in the sport.
While she came away with a medal, Beijing wasn’t necessarily a happy time for Sergerie.
“I remember leaving the Games and I still think about it right now – I just said to myself I didn’t enjoy myself,” she said. “It was just stress, stress and stress and that’s it.”
The Olympics are bigger than athletes realize until they’re actually there, Sergerie said.
So this time around, she’s working with a sports psychologist to help manage the tension.
She also made a major move from Montreal to Quebec City in order to train with her teammates.
“When I think about these Games, I really just want to be in the moment, focus on the things I can control and have a good time, that’s the most important thing to me,” said Sergerie.
Joining her on the Canadian Olympic team are Sebastien Michaud and Francois Coulombe-Fortier.
It’s the second Games for Michaud, who placed in the top 10 in Beijing, while Coulombe-Fortier will make his Olympic debut, though he was in China as a training partner.
“I’m surrounded by a team that’s just motivated, competent. They are just great,” Sergerie said, adding that she feels it is their camaraderie that has helped contribute to her success.
Sergerie first took up martial arts at the age of five, introduced to the sport by her father.
Her interest in taekwondo came later, just before the sport was introduced to the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Her coach, Alan Bernier, says the sport has changed considerably since then.
Most notably, there’s been the addition of technology that allows a computer to register hits, and therefore points, instead of relying on the human eye.
Bernier says since 2008, Segerie has also changed.
“The experience in Beijing matured her enormously,” he said.
She was overwhelmed in China, he said, and since then has learned to appreciate calm and her own standing in the sport.
That’s allowed her to enjoy it more, he said.
“The results, points, win or lose that’s something else,” Bernier said.
And if she has a moment of doubt about keeping that focus, Sergerie doesn’t have to look too far for inspiration.
Last October, she had a passage from her favourite films, “Lord of the Rings,” tattooed on her right forearm.
It is the response a character gives when he’s asked why he’s been entrusted with the burden of the ring: “All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that’s given to us.”
Underneath the words are the Olympic rings and the date of the Beijing and London Games.
And Sergerie says if there are more Olympics in her future, she’ll add those dates too.
But the passage from the book inspires more than just her sports career.
“I really believe that in life there are some things you can’t control but you do have a certain control of things you can take care of in the moment,” she said. “And that’s the kind of philosophy I try to have with my training, with competing and my life in general.”