What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Two things come to mind. The first was not really a single piece of advice, but more the way my family treated sports. I didn’t grow up watching sports on TV. We really didn’t follow sport. When we were playing sports, if we lost a game, my parents would ask: did you do your best? Was there anything else you could have done to help the team? They said that if I did, that was all that mattered, and then we would go for ice cream! In other words, a treat or a reward was not contingent on winning. It was only contingent on us doing our best. That was all that mattered to our parents. It didn’t matter if we won or lost. The lesson being that I could only control what I do, not what other people do. It’s a lesson that really stuck with me.
The other thing was something a coach told me at high school. I was playing sports because I loved them not because I took them seriously. I wasn’t thinking of trying to achieve anything. This coach pulled me into his office and told me I had so much potential as an athlete. I took it as a compliment. But he said it wasn’t a compliment; he said “potential is talent that you don’t have yet”. I can’t say those words stuck with me then… but as soon as I was faced with the challenge of learning a new sport and going to the Olympics in five months, I started to ask myself what my potential was. I wanted to discover what I could achieve.
What motivates you?
Discovering how far I can make use of my potential is a real driver for me – not just in sports, but in life. When I go to Nanjing for the YOG I will ask myself how many kids can I mentor and inspire? Often it’s not about telling them what to do but helping them figure out what’s important to them. I love that. It’s a challenge. Making other people realise they have untapped potential is fun and a huge motivator for me. Potential is about setting the bar at a certain level and trying your hardest to achieve it and then raising the bar a bit higher. Ultimately the question I pose myself is not ‘Can I reach that bar?’, it’s ‘How high can I push that bar?’
Rugby 7s will be making its full Olympic debut at Rio 2016. Could we see you pulling on a Canada shirt again?
It’s a temptation of course. But I live on the east coast, and rugby in Canada is centralised in the west coast so I’d need to relocate. If I was still in my 20s – two years out of my life wouldn’t be a problem, but now it would be more difficult. I don’t have a sense of urgency to do it. That said my athletic future has never been easy to predict. If I was asked to commit a year before, I’d think about it. The possibility exists. Anything is possible. But at the moment I’m enjoying lots of other opportunities outside sport.
How do you relax when not training or competing?
When I’m training hardcore during or pre-season so much of what I do is so exhausting that any downtime I have is spent reading, watching movies or sitcoms – especially when we’re travelling. It seems very sedentary, but it’s what I need. Real downtime! At the moment I’m travelling a lot doing speaking and events, and I really love that, but when I am at home on PE Island – I like to spend time at the family cabin by the water… just spending time chilling with my family, playing board games or cards – feeding the chipmunks and blue jays! Though I also love going out for a meal with friends.
What will you do after you finish competing?
I used to work as an occupational therapist, and what I loved about that was that I could inspire my clients to see their situations in different perspectives and to motivate them to pursue their goals and values. Now, as a motivational speaker, I can inspire not just one person but an entire room full of people, so I have embraced that. I have a gift for inspiring people, and the two Olympic golds have given me the platform to use that gift. It’s been an exciting adventure so far. Now my challenge is to turn that into a sustainable career.
What’s your favourite food?
A really good steak and fries, or the occasional meat lasagna! And I love my desserts. I don’t have a very strict diet when I’m training. I hammer the protein and make sure I get enough complex carbs to get me through the day. And I’m a bit of a sugar fiend. I’m an anti-extremist. I don’t believe in a hardcore diet. I believe in a balanced approach to diet, and to life. Our society has been programmed to get stressed about way too many things. I take care of the things that need to be taken care of and I enjoy the rest!
What is your secret talent?
Not sure about that… but here’s a secret talent I don’t have: I can’t whistle!
Read the first part of our interview.