‘I had a dream,’ Martin Luther King
I was 9 years old and as I watched the 1994 Winter Olympic games (held in Lilehammer, Norway), I was transfixed. I had seen a few of my country mates, Jean –Luc Brassard and Myriam Bedard amongst others, reach the paramount of athletic glory, winning an Olympic medal. I was inspired and I knew what I wanted. That one day, I was going to stand on that podium and have the ‘O Canada’ played for me while I’m waving at the crowd, a shiny medal hanging from my neck.
There was a tiny problem: I wasn’t competing in any sport. Though I was an active kid, taking swimming and gymnastic lessons here and there, I was not seriously involved in a sport. Like any Canadian kid, I had been given a pair of Ice skates for Christmas at the age of 3 and managed to become quite skilful. Being a girl, figure skating was the natural choice, however my neighbour and frenemy Agnes already doing it, I decided that speed skating should be by sport. It was my luck that a club had just started in my town a little more than a year prior.
It started every Saturday, my dad would wake me up at 6am and we would drive to the rink for my weekly practice. Every single week, I would look at the clock and painfully count down the minutes left to my hour training. The rental skates hurt my feet badly, I was freezing and more than anything else, I sucked. My first competition was disastrous. I fell a lot and finished second last. That should have been enough to completely turn off the little perfectionist I was. However, something kept me coming back, something kept me going. I had a dream and I was holding onto it. I knew things were going to get better and that I would succeed. I rapidly became more stable and faster.
After my first season I got a new pair of skates and started winning the beginners competition. In no time I was competing at a provincial level and training up to 4 days a week. My world was all about skating. I only thought, talked and dream about skating. I participated to my first national championships at the age of 14 and won the North American championships the following year. At the age of 16 I was invited to train with the National training centre in Montreal and made my first Junior World Team the following year. I was focussed and determined. My dream was my one and only priority.
In 2003, I was having my best season ever with a 5th place at the Junior World Championships and 5 medals at the Winter Canada Games. With the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in my aim, I could almost touch my dream. But, it went all downhill from there. Due to a multitude of circumstances (in the following post), the steady progression I had experienced slowed and stopped. I grew more and more depressed. My dream, my most faithful companion of the last decade had been left on the side of the highway and what used to be a clear, bright image was now getting blurrier by the day. The inevitable happened at the end of the 2004-2005 season when I took the decision the hang my skates.
With the loss of my dream also went my focus. I had no direction in life. I started and abandoned three different programs at school , worked jobs that were taking me no where and adopted a number of self destructing behaviours.
I moved to Australia in June 2008 in an attempt to start over new. A friend had once told me that you have to lose yourself in order to really find who you are and it is through the hardship of being away from home and lonely that I slowly started to find my focus again. In March 2010, one month after having watched my former teammates cover themselves with gold at the Winter Games in Vancouver, I took a decision that would change my life. After a friend casually suggested I do so, I decided to pick up my dream where I left it: I was getting back to skating to try and make it to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
Things went very quickly and just seemed to fall into place nicely. I got in contact with the Australian national coach, got some equipment and moved to Brisbane for a few months to train with a Korean coach in order to kick start my training. After 5 years away from the ice, I was rusty, but I was confident that I could find my feet again. I truly believed that the life experience I had acquired would make me a better, stronger skater. I had saved a substantial amount of money in the last couple of years and quickly spent it all in the gamble that I would realize a ‘Hollywood’ worthy comeback.
(Video of emilie skating in Icehouse in Melbourne, Victoria)
Through this decision, I also met my husband Luke, around the same time. We quickly embarked in the relationship I had been wanting for years: simple and loving, yet motivating and enriching. Everything really seemed like it was meant to be.
(to be continued)