Friday, September 20, 2013

From Lone Blogger to COC Volunteer to SportCafé Editor

Hugues Etienne Antoine Suzanne

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago today, I volunteered for the Canadian Olympic Committee for the Olympic Heroes Tour.
The first day was spent going to area schools where the Olympians shared inspiring stories with students. The morning was spent with kayaker Hugues Fournel and Justin Karn (para-judo).

Olympic Heroes Tour

They both had very inspiring stories and the bonus of accompanying the Olympians was getting to hear them. In the afternoon, we were joined by Olympic bronze medallist Antoine Valois-Fortier and swimmer Charles Francis.

Olympic Heroes Tour

The next day was the Olympic parade where I was assigned the swimming float which included two bronze medallists Brent Hayden and Richard Weinberger. This is Canada's swim team five minutes before the parade was to start.

Olympic parade

My sister was in the crowd near the end of the parade. She ran out to hug me (she was so excited for me to have had this opportunity) and as I'm running back to my float, she called my name so I turned around. This shot is a perfect representation of the whirlwind two days I had and the happiness it brought me.

Olympic parade 2

I wrote many posts about this experience last year (links at the end). What I am reflecting on today isn't those amazing two days, but how things have changed since then. I may go all kooky on you now, but I believe in serendipity. From my Olympic experience in Vancouver to today. I feel like things are meant to be.

If I made a movie about my 2010 Olympic experience, people would think it was Hollywood-ized. Everything was too perfect. Links from past posts are at the end of this one.

When I came back, I thought my Olympic dream was over. Nothing could beat a home Olympics but a year later I realized that it didn't have to be over. Just like an Olympian who wins a gold medal doesn't (necessarily) stop competing. I didn't have to stop wanting Olympic experiences even if it meant seeing an Olympian compete in local events or following athletes dream to compete at the Games.

I decided to start writing about Olympians and amateur sports more. Rather than bombarding my original blog (My Life Is Like A Song) I began in 2008 with Olympic posts, in May 2011, I started a second blog (Olympic Hearts) dedicated to Olympic sports (I did transfer the 30 or so Olympic related posts from my original blog).

My goal was to follow Olympic sports and athletes year round, not only leading up to the Olympic Games. I wanted to see them compete when it was possible, I wanted to follow Olympic trials. I wanted to be thrilled when a 20th place at the Games meant a personal best. I wanted more than the medallist focus found in mainstream media.

As much as I say that I believe in serendipity, I still believe that you have to make your own luck. Starting my blog and separate Olympic twitter account meant that I was following athletes and organizations more closely. This meant that I saw the call for volunteers by the Canadian Olympic Committee. This meant that I knew who Hugues Fournel was when I was assigned to him.

Hugues, Justin and I had great discussions in the car on our way to our destinations. At one point, I mentioned that I had seen Hugues' writing on SportCafé. He was really excited that I knew of SportCafé explaining that his friends had started the website. He continues by saying that they work SO hard. I half-jokingly ask if they need help from someone in Toronto...whose bilingual? (I knew that Etienne and Antoine were based in Québec City). I was surprised when he said "maybe, I'll ask them."

I believed that Hugues meant it when he said it, but I didn't know when he would see them with the kayak season having ended. Although he may not have remembered me, I hoped he would remember my idea I shared about what I would love to see on the website.

SportCafé mostly featured athlete blogs then. I told Hugues that often times, athletes blog about where they've been and where they've competed. I wanted to know when and where they were going to compete before they competed. Was it close to Toronto so I could go and cheer them on? Was it televised or livestreamed?

One week later, I was meeting with Antoine and Etienne who were in Toronto for a conference. They loved my idea and asked if I wanted to undertake that part of the website. If me meeting Hugues the week before Etienne and Antoine were in Toronto isn't serendipity I don't know what is. Initially I thought they travelled to Toronto often, but the next time they came this way was in June when they were in Welland for team trials.

It all came full circle with Hugues, Etienne, Antoine and I at National Team Trials.

Hugues Etienne Antoine Suzanne

A year ago, I was working on my own blog with limited connections and a very small audience. I even wrote about SportCafé on my blog last summer. You can read that post here where I say that "SportCafé is billed as website "for athletes, by athletes" where athletes write about their experiences and share their blog posts." I never thought that I would end up joining those athletes and writing on SportCafé myself (or recently becoming Editor).

I'm now part of a team dedicated to increasing the visibility and support for amateur sports. With the 2014 Olympics only 140 days away, we'll be working even harder to make that happen for the Games and beyond.

My Olympic dream continues.

Links to past posts:
Olympic Heroes Tour (summary of school visits)
Olympic Volunteer Day #2 (before the parade and coincidence of being assigned the swimming float)
Toronto Olympic Parade
Call Me Maybe Great souvenir for me appearing in the Olympic team video.

My 2010 Olympics (collection of all posts from newest to oldest)
Partial Dream Come True My first time holding an Olympic torch. I didn't know I would go to the Olympics yet and thought this was as close to my Olympic dream that I would get.
Opening Ceremonies
Men's Moguls...Canada's First Gold At Home
Pre-Opening Ceremonies
Vancouver Day 1
Victoria Highlights Includes Terry Fox statue, Simon Whitfield and Steve Nash jerseys and two occasions to hold an Olympic torch

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