For Canadians, there’s little that’s more exciting than coming together every two years to witness the incredible feats showcased by our athletes at the Olympics. As a Team Canada curler and two-time Olympic gold medalist, I can attest to how that feeling is magnified by years of training, culminating in an intense 17-day quest for gold.
As a country, we fix our focus on the moment an athlete crosses the finish line or ascends the podium. What comes afterward is seldom discussed or thought about. Athletes nearing the end of their careers in sport and looking to post-Olympic life, like me, often wonder what the next chapter will entail and the challenges it will present. While many might not relate to this turning point in an athletic career, the feeling of uncertainty that comes with it is universal to anyone dealing with professional change – and so too are the feelings of exhilaration and discouragement that come with competition.
I’ve endured both success and defeat in the curling arena. Making it to the podium was a lifelong dream that took dedication, sacrifice and determination. After stepping down to part-time in my job as a firefighter to focus on curling, I experienced a setback when I did not qualify for a spot on the men’s team for the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. But I channelled my disappointment into motivation and secured a place on the mixed doubles team with Kaitlyn Lawes and went on to win gold.
It’s those highs and lows that prepared me for the next chapter of my life as an entrepreneur. While curling will forever be in my blood, sport and personal experience has taught me that, as life progresses, goals change and new dreams are imagined.
To go from sports to launching my own business might seem like a leap, but it’s important to remember that the first step toward a new career doesn’t need to be huge. At first, the goal can simply be to get moving while feeding your curiosity. Over the years, I’ve developed an interest in nutrition and cooking, fuelled by my undergraduate education in kinesiology and my competitive sport training. One of my first forays outside of curling was completing a chef’s training course, which I felt would complement the diploma in holistic nutrition that I obtained before I began training for Pyeongchang.
Next, I was able to gain a new set of skills through a partnership between the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. While training for the Winter Olympics, I enrolled in a program to study the fundamentals of business, which I plan to combine with my passion for cooking to fulfill my new dream of opening a café with my wife in Canmore, Alta.
I am fortunate that my Olympic experience helps me manage the winding path to success. Maintaining motivation is also key to reaching any goal. The fuel for that is inspiration. It’s important to surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you to keep moving forward and thrive.
In my curling career, my friend, teammate and mentor Kevin Martin was one of these people. His tenacity to win and stay at the top was infectious, helping fuel the team toward great successes and hard-earned gold-medal wins. He also broadened my perspective on curling, allowing me to appreciate the game not just as a personal passion, but also for what it taught me about business. It was through our work together that I learned how training and discipline can translate into business results.
Drive and motivation can wane, especially when you’ve been at the top. Having a mentor to advise and provide encouragement will help combat motivational dry spells. My advice is to find those people and build those relationships – they will be a core part of achieving long-term objectives.
There’s no question that being steeped in the business of competitive curling for more than two decades taught me how to leverage strategy, planning and diligence to win gold – skills that I know will help me in my new business pursuits. Looking forward to my latest aspiration, I now see that sometimes it takes a chapter nearing its finale and a few new steps forward to awaken ideas and skills that you never knew were there.