In a bid to raise money after losing funding, the slalom canoeist from New Zealand released his own cookbook, ‘Eat Like The Locals’. Its enormous success took even Mike by surprise… 

It all began when I lost my funding for Rio 2016 after a poor result at the World Championships. Although I had qualified to compete in Rio, I needed to raise enough money to do a ‘no compromises’ campaign, as I called it.

So my partner and I came up with this idea to make a cookbook. For the last ten years I’ve been travelling the world, which means I’ve discovered tonnes of amazing food. Over time, I’ve learned to cook these different recipes, so the cookbook was a chance to bring them all together.  

It was about sharing my story and raising money, as well as raising awareness for my sport, for the Olympic Games and for the Olympic Movement in general.

Speaking from the heart
All the recipes in the cookbook are gathered from my journey as an athlete. There’s a goulash recipe from my friend’s mother in the Czech Republic, and a burger recipe that my fiancé loves to make me. There are around 20 to 25 in the book in total, and every single one represents a really important part of my career; someone I met who inspired me, motivated me or shared my journey. That was where they came from. 

Overcoming fears
One of the biggest fears I had before publishing the cookbook was the fear of failing. I was nervous when I was appearing on television and the radio or speaking to the papers to promote it. As it turns out, we had huge pick-up all over the world; a lot of people weren’t just buying the cookbook, they were also buying a stake in the funding campaign, sending messages and supporting me the whole way through. We sold enough cookbooks to raise the funds, and with the leftover money we did a food drop at a favela in Rio. After spending so much time there, we realised that there are people who are much worse off than us.

Fresh ideas
I’ve been thinking about how I could use the publicity from the first cookbook to do something for young athletes who find themselves in the same situation I was in before Rio: struggling to find the resources, trying to do something to help achieve their goals. I also have a really big passion for photography. We go on these cool trips; I flew back from Pakistan recently and the images are amazing. I’d love to put our adventures into a book to promote kayaking and increase the audience of the sport.

Following your passion
As athletes, we’re incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to do what we do. Through that opportunity, we can learn so many things that cross over into everyday life. If you’re afraid you don’t have the expertise, all I would say is wing it. Just go for it – if you’ve got an idea, you’re passionate about it and you really want to see it happen, that’s the most important thing. Just make sure you take the time to plan and think about what you’re doing. The rest of it will take care of itself later.