The RBC Olympian Program Gives Canada’s Top Athletes The Competitive Edge In Sport And Life

coc-rbc-lockup_headerFor many young people, starting out in the workforce can be challenging – lack of experience, skills, and opportunities. For Canada’s elite-level athletes who have spent most of their life focused on sport, it can be an even more daunting task. Understanding these pressures, RBC welcomed 57 athletes to its 2017/2018 workforce as part of the RBC Olympian Program. I was invited to attend the celebration event on September 27th and found out first hand from the athletes the importance of this program, as well as ask them some of your questions shared with me through social.

Established in 2002, the RBC Olympian Program enables athletes, from both summer and winter sports, as well as those transitioning out of sport, to work on RBC initiatives and engage as community ambassadors to speak about their experiences and the Olympic values of commitment, excellence, teamwork and leadership to audiences across the country.

“We recognize that the road to the Olympics isn’t an easy one, and that’s why RBC continues to make a significant commitment to Canadian athletes through the RBC Olympians program. We want to make sure that athletes can stay focused on their Olympic dreams while also honing the skills they need to be successful in life after sport.”
– Matt McGlynn, Vice President, Brand Marketing RBC

This was a point shared by each of the athletes I interviewed, giving gratitude and appreciation to RBC for the financial support and opportunity for flexible employment that fits with their intense training schedules.

Athlete Interviews

As part of the launch of this years RBC Olympian Program I had the pleasure to live tweet the event (search the hashtag #RBCOlympian on twitter) and share via my Instagram interviews with some of Canada’s top athletes. Prior to the event I asked YOU for some of your “hard hitting” questions 😉

So here they are, along with a short athlete bio.

Spencer O’Brien – (Women’s Slopestyle Snowboard) – Spencer O’Brien is a First Nations athlete from British Columbia, who won a silver medal during 2016/17 World Cup season. O’Brien was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a week before Sochi 2014, but still competed. O’Brien is managing the disease and is considered a medal contender again.

Here’s what Spencer had to say about snacks, rest days, her favourite podcast, and pre-competition rituals:

Mercedes Nicoll – (Women’s Snowboard halfpipe) – Mercedes Nicoll is a veteran of the national team, who competed in Sochi 2014 which was her third Olympic Games (she finished 25th). She has been named to the national snowboard team for 2017/18 so hopes to make PyeongChang her 4th Olympic Games.

Here’s what Mercedes had to say about self-care, eating healthy, her favourite fitness move (which we try), how she unwinds at the end of the day, how she defines success, and her training mantra:

Tyler McGregor – (Sledge hockey) – Tyler McGregor was the sledge hockey team captain of the bronze medal team at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. He was the youngest member of Canada’s gold medal winning team at the 2013 IPC World Championships, and is said to be “on the fast track to success in the sport”.

In 2009, as an able-bodied ice hockey player at the AAA level, the 16-year-old McGregor broke his ankle and both bones in his leg. As his leg healed and he returned to playing ice hockey, a large lump developed on the site of the original fracture. At first doctors ruled out anything serious, and he continued to play, but the lump grew larger, and the pain intensified, he eventual received the diagnosis of Spindle Cell Sarcoma, a form of soft tissue cancer, in January 2010. McGregor then underwent eight months of chemotherapy and the amputation of his left leg. McGregor realized quickly that he wanted to get back into hockey and started playing again with a standing amputee team. However he switched to sledge hockey in 2011 and his determination has led him to the national team.

Here’s what Tyler had to say about sport-life balance, favourite snack on the go, cross training, rest days, his athletic hero, his favourite book, and how he celebrates success:

Sarah Wells – (Track and Field) – Sarah Wells made her Olympic debut at London 2012 where she advanced to the semifinals of the 400m hurdles. She had remarkably qualified for the Games after being sidelined for nine months in 2011 when she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her left femur. Wells went on to compete at the 2013 Summer Universiade where she won silver with the 4x400m relay and just missed the podium with her fourth place finish in the 400m hurdles. Wells was then out for another six months with a re-occurrence of the stress fracture in her femur. She came back to capture her fourth Canadian title in 2015, following her 400m hurdles victories in 2012, 2010, and 2008. Wells also won a pair of medals at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Here’s what Sarah had to say about sport-life balance, when she feels her most powerful, her least favourite workout, what she does to unwind, what advice she would give her younger self, and her pre-race rituals:

Since 1947, RBC has been the longest-standing supporter of Canada’s Olympic Team and has hired approximately 400 current and retired Olympic and Paralympic athletes through the RBC Olympian Program, with more than 20 becoming full time employees. It was an honour to meet with these high level athletes, ask them questions, and hear how RBC has made a positive impact on their training. I can’t wait to follow along as Spencer, Mercedes, and Tyler head to PyeongChang in 2018.

 

The Mindfulness of Triathlon

One of the perks of being part of the Toronto Triathlon Gold Member Club this race season was the opportunity to attend a member only event with Simon Whitfield.  Simon won 10 consecutive Canadian Triathlon Championships titles, attended four Olympic games (winning Gold at the Sydney Olympics and Silver at the Beijing Olympics), and carried the Canadian national flag during the opening ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The Gold Member event took place on the Saturday before the race and involved a panel discussion featuring Simon as well as a short shake out run which he participated in as well.

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Toronto Triathlon Festival Ambassadors with Olympian Simon Whitfield

What really stood out to me from what Simon shared was his connection to yoga and mindfulness. Simon was asked what advice he would give to younger triathletes and his response – yoga. Simon shared “I think if I had done that throughout my career I would’ve avoided some of the pitfalls – physical pitfalls and mental pitfalls.”He went on to highlight the need to complete “daily diagnostics” where every morning he finds quite time and space and tunes in to his body – how he feels physically and mentally – he unplugs from his devices and simply tunes and turns in.

Simon shared how initially in his training he thought yoga was simply stretching, but has since learned the true benefits for him which have come through the connection to mind, body, and daily reflection. Simon shared “there’s a lot of pressure involved in any level of sport and the routine of being isolated to your own mat, your own space, would be helpful in the morning and at night keeping out that negative self talk.”

He also shared how mindfulness and reflection would’ve helped him in his interactions with colleagues, coaches, and family sharing “If i did yoga throughout my career I would’ve avoided pitfalls on the mental side of it and the human interaction side would’ve been less up and down as it was.”

I was really surprised by Simon’s continued connection back to yoga and the impact it’s had on his life after Triathlon, and his push for those to give it a try to enhance their training and life. I really enjoyed hearing Simon share this information as well as the rest of his story as a four time Olympian, and life after the Olympics.

To become a TTF Gold Member is simple – simply register for the race early before the deadline and the perks (which included many great prizes) are yours!

Watch the entire panel here as recorded by Michelle Clarke.

It’s time to #StepUpStandTall Canada!

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Have you seen this video yet? Time to dig out that red and white and get ready to #StepUpStandTall!