Two-time Olympic gold medallist John Morris reveals his excitement at being an Athlete Role Model (ARM) for the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020.
John Morris is one of only six curlers to have won two Olympic gold medals, having topped the podium with the Canadian men’s team in Vancouver in 2010 and with mixed doubles partner Kaitlyn Lawes in PyeongChang in 2018.
The 40-year-old is now preparing to pass his experience on to the next generation as one of the ARMs at the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020, where he will offer support and advice to the 1,880 young athletes who will be participating in the Games in January.
Here, olympic.org speaks to Morris to discover why he wanted to be part of the ARM programme, and what he will be sharing with the young athletes in Lausanne…
Why did you want to be part of the ARM programme?
“I’m at the stage of my career now where I probably have only a few more years of competition left. Growing up, when I was able to meet older athletes who resonated with me and who I was able to relate to, they really inspired me. I’ve been very fortunate to have won some gold medals in my curling career, and I feel like I have the ability to have an influence and an impact on the next generation, and this is a great opportunity for me to do that and to give back to the sport and the younger athletes.”
How important is it for you to give back to your sport?
“It’s vital. As I said, I had a few role models in curling when I was growing up, and if they hadn’t been in my life then, who knows, I might have chosen a different path and decided not to stick with sport. I feel like sport is such an important factor in our lives, especially for young people when they’re so impressionable. As a teenager, you come to a crossroads in your life and there are a few different roads to choose, and if I can help influence these young athletes to choose a good, positive path through sport then I’d feel very good about that.”
Who were your role models growing up and how much did they influence you?
“As a curler, guys like Ed Werenich, Neil Harrison, Wayne Middaugh – at the time, they were all at the pinnacle of their curling careers and I was just a young buck looking for a bit of direction, just hoping to be like them one day. I remember playing against them when I was in my teens, sitting with them after the game, and they were treating me like I was one of them; just a fellow competitor. Actually, in one of my first World Curling Tour events, when I was 16 years old, I somehow brought the wrong bag to the rink and I didn’t have a pair of curling pads to wear for the game. There was a guy on Ed’s team who I really looked up to called John Kawaja. He had an extra pair of curling pads, and he just said, “Here you go, kid.” That meant I was able to go and play against these heroes of mine, and just nice gestures like that helped put things in perspective for me. I feel like I owe it to the game and to the next generation of athletes to be one of those guys who gives back to sport and who other people can look up to.”
What do you hope to offer the young athletes in Lausanne?
“There’s going to be a lot going through their heads, and this could be the first major international event that they’ve competed in. So they could have a lot of anxiety, which is something I’ve had to deal with in my career. It’s taken me a lot of years to figure out how to cope with it in a positive way, so if I can share some advice and suggestions with these younger athletes on how to deal with issues like that, then I’m more than happy to help them.”
I think the most important thing as a role model is to show that I’m not on a different level to them just because I’ve won two Olympic gold medals. I was in their shoes once too; I know exactly how it feelsJohn Morris Canada
How are you going to engage with them?
“I want to make myself as approachable as possible, so I’m happy for the athletes to come and talk to me about anything – I think the most important thing as a role model is to show that I’m not on a different level to them just because I’ve won two Olympic gold medals. I was in their shoes once too; I know exactly how it feels, and I want to relate to them. As soon as they feel they can trust me and relate to me, then hopefully they can open up to me and ask me about things that may help them, so that they can draw from my experiences.”
What would you say to your younger self if you could go back and offer some advice now?
“Well, I had a few tough losses in the early stages of my career, in particular when I lost the final of the Canadian national championship. It felt at the time like my only chance had gone. I felt like I had failed and was on the verge of giving up because I thought that I’d missed my only shot at winning the title. That’s the perspective you have when you’re young, but in reality, failure is just another stepping stone to success. Most athletes have to overcome challenges in their careers. Failure is purely in your own mind and it can be a great learning tool. If I hadn’t lost that final, I wouldn’t have been as hungry or as driven to come back the following year and win it. I felt like I had something to prove, and you need to have that patience and that perspective. If you don’t win this one event, it’s not the be-all and end-all. It took me a while to realise that.”
How significant do you think competing at the YOG could be for the young athletes in Lausanne?
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for them. It should give them something to strive for, because if they’re at an event like this, at such a young age, then the sky really is the limit for them. Whatever their result, they can use the YOG as a motivating factor, because they clearly have the chance to make it to the Olympic Games one day. Their experiences at the YOG will make them realise that they can do that, if they continue to work hard at it, and I think that’s a really good message for them.”
We’re now less than two months away from the Games – what would your message be to those athletes who are making their final preparations for Lausanne 2020?
“It’s getting close to crunch time now. Before you get there, all you can do is prepare as much as you can and do everything that’s in your power, be that practising or training in the gym. Just trust that you have done everything you could have to be prepared for these Games, and don’t be worried about whether your opponents are better than you or if they have trained harder than you. Trust in your processes and know that you have done the best that you can do. And when you get to Lausanne, just remember to be in the moment, enjoy it and have fun. A lot of the time that sentiment is lost in the intensity of competition, but if you enjoy your experience you will be more relaxed.”