Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
08/30 2009

West Shore Roots

2009 Canada Summer Games Men's Pair

2009 Canada Summer Games Men's Pair

On my trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI) I convinced Rachel to lend me her fancy camera.  It was great to have on the trip, but I could hardly take any shots myself.  However, Ashley from AthletesCAN did.  I’ve looked through them and I’m glad she captured one moment in particular.

After the 2004 Olympics I was hired by Go Rowing and Paddling Association of Canada to run their West Shore Rowing and Paddling Centre program.  It remains one of the most rewarding coaching gigs I’ve ever held.  I coached kids who were keen about rowing and actually looked after each other.  It’s great seeing them now around town.  I just saw Jill the other day.

Awarding Noah O'Connell

Awarding Noah O'Connell

Noah O’Connell was one of those kids, strong, eager to succeed and dedicated.  His parents were very supportive.  In the end, Noah’s school path has looked a lot like mine did; he attended Brentwood College School and now is at the University of Washington.  Great choices Noah.

Last week I was in an umpire boat as Noah and his pair partner sped down the PEI course to win the 2009 Canada Summer Games.  A few hours later I also presented him with his medal.  It felt good to know I had a small part in his beginnings, and that he is at the beginning of an exciting journey through the ranks of the sport and life.

The icing on the cake was presenting Noah’s little brother Will (who was too young for rowing when I was the local coach) with his medal for the quad.  What a powerhouse family.  “O’Doyle Rules!”

Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
08/28 2009

Torch Bearer Response

2008-OpeningCeremonyMy Torch Bearer blog was posted on an internal work website. This was a response I wrote following emails and comments made by my colleagues about that blog:

Thanks for the kind words and thoughts everyone. It is easy for me to be the ‘Olympic-guy’, having been there and now working on the Vancouver 2010 file for the Province of British Columbia. (In fact, the Olympics are so much a part of me that I am going to try for another games: London 2012). It has been an eye opener, though, to witness what it takes to pull off a successful games – and our games will be successful. Finding out who benefits directly, who benefits indirectly and who does not. Seeing the intricate web of impacts both positive and negative. As I learn more, I am pushed harder to advocate for the positive opportunities the games bring, and can continue to bring to all corners of BC’s society.

We can leverage the games for international business gain, for accessibility in our communities and accessible tourism strategies. We can leverage the games to raise awareness around poverty and homelessness, work safety standards and issues in First Nations communities. I believe that the games provide a ‘playing field’ for all these issues and many more. For me though, it boils down to how we decide to engage with the Olympics.

1968 Mexico City Olympic Summer GamesWe can use the games in positive and negative ways to further so many causes. Through protest we have seen athletes advance awareness of racism and poverty in African American communities. But we have also seen actions that take the Olympics to the extremes. I am not suggesting that BC will be struck with acts of terror, however I know that there is an anti-Olympics movement in BC, and I’m anxious to see what protests might happen.

But here is a billion dollar machine that we can leverage to further individual causes. I have seen low-income housing initiatives grow out of athletes’ villages; I have seen inner city sports programs appear in the wake of Olympic Games. I have seen awareness and development in the field of accessibility grow exponentially through the Paralympic movement. The sky is the limit – there for the taking.

Kids and OlympicsBut above all else, I want the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire school-aged kids across the province and the country to get off the couch, to disconnect from the internet and to get active again. It scares me that my children’s generation has a shorter life expectancy than my own. I look into my daughter’s eyes and I think “no way”. We need role models, we need inspiration, and we get those through the stories of struggle and success that will be showcased in February and March right here in BC. These games can (if we chose to let them) breed a generation of kids in BC not afraid to dream, not afraid to achieve, and ready to disprove the theory on their life expectancy.

The Olympics is not our ‘saviour’, but it certainly can be a tool to solve many problems we face.

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
08/27 2009

De-rigging with Tecla

Dave and Tecla in PEIOne of the highlights of my trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI) and the Canada Games last week was getting a chance to hang out with my little cousin Tecla. She’s not so little anymore. Now 18, she represented Manitoba in rowing, racing the pair (2-) and the eight (8+). Yes, of course rowing.

Ask any rower about the feeling they get de-rigging their boat after races are over. There’s an overwhelming sense of ease; the work’s done. The blood, sweat and tears have all been shed, and now, no longer fearful of the sun’s ability to zap your energy, you get to pack up and go home.

De-rigging with TeclaIt’s also in these moments, when there is no crowd, there are no cameras, when no one else is watching that you get to be yourself – this is when you get to really know someone. In the heat of the PEI late morning summer sun, as close to Cavendish as I was going to get, Tecla and I de-rigged and washed her boat. We talked about her races, the victories and losses, about her summer, her fights and her friends, we talked about all the details that got her from the Red River to that makeshift 1250 metre rowing course on the West River of PEI.

Thanks Tecla, I really enjoyed that.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
08/26 2009

Canada Games Revisited (+16 years)

DSC_0386It was 16 years ago that I competed at my Canada Games in Kamloops, BC. Last week Athletes CAN flew me out to PEI for the 2009 games, and it was like nothing changed…except I was a lot older. Athletes CAN is an organization that, for lack of a better word, acts as a union for amateur athletes in Canada (Moira, Ashley and Danika may cringe when they read the word ‘union’). My official role was as an Athlete Ambassador. What does that mean? Well, I spent four days talking to young athletes who want to be Olympians one day – check that – who want to be Olympic gold medalists for Canada one day. How cool is that!?

I like the Canada Games. They are a great stepping stone for athletes climbing the ranks. The games provide an important and very real experience of being in a multi-sport event. The level of competition may vary from sport to sport and province to province, but the essence of the Olympics are captured and emulated well, so a message to the athletes in PEI: take advantage of the opportunity you have to learn.

DSC_0406_2What’s so important about the multi-sport experience the Canada Games provide? To perform well athletes need to minimize potential distractions. Most athletes will cut off communications with their parents during the build up to competition (usually a good idea, no offense mom, but you get too nervous). But the little things that are taken for granted at home, like the quality and quantity of food can become a huge issue during competition. You rely on someone else to prepare your food, but that person is also preparing food for hundreds or thousands of other athletes. You won’t get your crusts cut off just the way mom does it. Special orders don’t happen.

DSC_0411_2Transportation can also become a major detractor from good performances. Every Olympics I’ve participated in the rowing course has been over an hour’s drive away from the village, in good traffic. One of the tennis players from the Canada Games last week told me that she and a number of other players were stuck at their venue until 2 AM one night during competition – “When you hoot with the owl’s at night you can’t soar with the eagles in the morning” is a plaque on the wall of the Conibear Shellhouse. It seems hardly fair though when it’s not your fault. Still, how would you react? How would you let that impact your match the next day? An old rowing coach used to tell us to “roll with the punches”. How true.

The third major opportunity for distractions comes with athlete housing. When you arrive at any games you never know what you’re going to get. You never know how many people you will be sharing your room with, if your bed will be comfy or if the room will be too hot or too cold. In a village you can’t predict if another province (or country) will keep you up all night. So bring your own pillow, blanket and ear plugs.

DSC_0446_2All these things can impact your performance quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle”. But if you can deal with distractions better than your competition then you will have the upper hand. Take that a step further: use your Canada Games experience to prepare for future games, because these distractions happen all the way to the top. If you do that, you will have the upper hand when you face Germany, France and whatever other countries you’ll face.

So who’s going to come out of these games to go on to win Olympic medals? Who from all the other sports will walk into the Olympic stadium beside you? Good luck.

Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
08/17 2009

Hockey Canada’s New Jersey

Hockey CanadaThe new Hockey Canada jersey was leaked this morning ahead of the official unveiling at the University of British Columbia (happening in 10 minutes). There is a lot of pride and tradition in the old jersey, and personally, I’d rather see the teams wearing the old one. But no matter what jersey they wear, it’s best this issue is put to rest long before the opening ceremonies.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is serious about consistency in uniforms, and can you blame them? With the billions of dollars that go into television and corporate rights, would you want to upset your clients? That’s not to mention view confusion. If a country is wearing one thing on the slopes and something completely different in the rink – I’d wonder where they were from. I don’t know about you but I like to know what country an athlete is from in the first second I see them (rowing makes that easy by placing the country’s flag on the oar).

Although it may not seem like a big deal, it can be for the athlete. When Scott and I raced the heat in Beijing for the men’s pair in rowing, somehow we didn’t get the ‘memo’ about which hat to wear. We put our Rowing Canada hats on instead of our Canadian Olympic Committee hats, which from a distance of 5 metres or greater are identical. By the time we finished our cool-down and got to the dock an IOC representative had called our team manager and informed us that we were wearing the incorrect hats. They also added that they did not approve that I was wearing black socks while Scott had on his white socks!

This seems funny, odd and definitely over the top. But from an athlete’s perspective, it is imperative not to have any distractions during competition. All your attention has to be on winning. Who knows – maybe the issue could have blown out of control and become a media distraction? It sure seems to be that way with Hockey Canada. I didn’t want to know the IOC was watching my uniform, or that my hat was wrong when I got to the dock. I wanted to know what went wrong in the race and how we were going to fix it.

The Olympics are about winning, not about what you’re wearing.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
08/14 2009

Torch Bearer

I first dreamt about being in the Olympics in 1988. I remember, at the age of ten years old, seeing the Calgary Olympic torch relay on television. Remember, that was an era of mobilization in Canada – people were doing the impossible. It all started in 1980 with Terry Fox, the brave young teenager who attempted to cross Canada on his Marathon of Hope raising money for cancer research. In 1984, Steve Fonyo picked up Terry’s torch and completed what cancer cut short for Terry. Then in 1985 Rick Hansen took it a step further and launched the world “Man in Motion” tour raising money for spinal cord injury research. Canadians, it seemed, could do anything they wanted to.

So, when the Calgary Olympic torch came across Canada, my young brain connected the nobility of Terry’s, Steve’s and Rick’s efforts to what I was about to witness in Calgary. Different in many ways, but similar too; individuals doing what seemed impossible to most; believing in one’s self without exception; fearless to a fault.

Three Olympics under my belt and I’m living proof of what I believed true in 1988. I have a fearless approach to dreaming. I figure out how to achieve what once seemed impossible, and I will push my body beyond what seems like its breaking point. This is my legacy to my children.

What happened yesterday, then, is both surprising and heart-warming. At 3 in the afternoon, someone from Coca Cola called and asked me to run a 300 metre portion of the 2010 Olympic torch relay; one of thousands. With those 300 steps I will become a part of what ignited the dream for me. I will become a small part of a relay that inspires millions, passing the torch from one person to the next. In Sydney, I saw as the torch brought a racially divided country together, even just for a moment, to celebrate one of their best athletes, Kathy Freeman, when she ran the Olympic torch up the long steps to light the Olympic Cauldron.

Now we can bring this tool, this vehicle of inspiration, to our children. Just as watching a generation of athletes and heroes carrying the torch – both figuratively, in Terry Fox’s case; literally, for thousands of others – inspired me, so I hope to be a small part of a process that inspires others. A small personal circle will be closed for me, but, on a larger scale, a whole new generation of Canadians might believe that the impossible is worth doing.

Watch for me – and the thousands of others who make this possible – on October 30th, 2009.

Posted in All Blogs, Rowing
07/16 2009

Support: The small things…

Renovations 013During the year leading up to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, my employer, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resource (MEMPR) created a part time job for me. The position was structured so I could work remotely – from a coffee shop near Elk Lake or in an internet cafe in Europe.

A few people at MEMPR were instrumental in its creation.  One just returned from a vacation to England.  Her cousin has Royal links into the Royal Enclosures at Ascot, Wimbledon and Henley.   The 2008 Henley Royal Regatta saw Canadian crews win multiple trophies; this year there were hardly any entered – sorry Kate.  But if anyone can make it over next year I want to race the 2009 Henley Royal Regatta in the build-up to London 2012.

While Kate was there she stumbled upon a gift shop and found this coffee mug for me.  This morning I used it for the first time – I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the coffee.

Thanks Kate.


Posted in All Blogs, Family
07/16 2009

Home Renovations II

On Sunday morning I dropped the girls off at the airport and headed home for a solid day’s work on the home reno.  An hour or so in my motivation began to wane.  I found the Tragically Hip Fully Completely album and cranked it on repeat.  After that I had to stop working at 8:20 PM afraid the neighbours might call the cops.

All the old windows are out now and I am waiting for the delivery of the new Low E ones.  I’m worried it’s too late for an energy assessment – now that I have polly up instead of glass…Cory???  Yesterday I took out the last pre-existing wall, including a sliding-glass door and a small window.  I had impromptu help of my brother-in-law Dave Richards re-framing the new hole for the ordered exterior door and a larger window.  Check out my new shots…

I hope to make a ton of headway while the girls are out of town.  I can’t wait to be finished.


UPDATE: Two of my windows arrived via delivery van this morning.  I can hardly wait to get them installed tonight.  Strange are the things that excite this 31-year-old.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
07/13 2009

Come out and watch Live Music Wednesday at 8PM

MrSomethingSomethingHey ya’ll, 

This is an open invitation for anyone to come join me and a couple of my friends at Hermann’s Jazz Club this Wednesday night, July 15th, 2009 after 8 PM.  There is a band playing there that I want to check out called Mr. Something Something.  Their music and live shows push a message of social justice and environmental activism.    

Many have tried – few have put their money where their mouths are. 

Mr. Something Something has stationary bikes on the dance floor for their faithful fans to generate electricity to power their amps.  Sustainable music.  Talk about reducing their carbon footprint.  I want to go see how they do it – the concept is so cool. 

With Project Blue Sky, I want to see if there can be an application of the technology for our purposes. Wouldn’t it be cool to roll out our own human powered electrification system to power all of our school and community visits?? 

Come and join me for a pint and a look-see.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even meet the band…


Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Hermann’s Jazz Club or the band Mr. Something Something.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
1 comment
07/13 2009

The day my friend jumped over me on his bike…

MV Brkfast offset15In my role on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council I have spearheaded a public engagement campaign that aims to encourage people to reduce their individual carbon footprint. 

It’s called Project Blue Sky

We have created an open source social network that features Olympic, Paralympic and Extreme athletes.  These athletes share their stories and blogs, including how they reduce their own carbon footprint, and invite the general public to join in with them.

To track these carbon reductions we have created a tool that can be shared across the internet to any major social networking site – or your own personal site…it’s there on the right hand side of my site.  Collectively we can watch as we reduce a significant amount of carbon. 

In fact, we have challenged VANOC to a carbon race.  We want to reduce 1-Billion commuter kilometres of carbon globally, and they want to offset an additional 190,000 tonnes of carbon.  They have already offset 110,000 tonnes through their official carbon offsetting partner Offsetters Clean Technologies, but they want to do more.

Do you want to race them with me?

The site went live two days ago and we are already up to 115 members, with more and more athletes and public members joining all the time.  Take a look and sign up.  If you are one of my athlete friends then email me after you’ve signed up and I’ll get you featured as a participating athlete on the home page.

MV Brkfast offset6At the launch a few of my good friends helped lead the charge.  Stephanie Dixon, Paralympic superstar swimmer (with 19 Paralympic medals to her name) talked about taking on huge challenges.  She was born with one leg – and she can swim faster than most people with two, so challenges are what she thrives on.  Ryan Leech was also there.  He is an amazing trails rider – check him out…  

MV Brkfast offset16He is probably the nicest, most modest guy you’ll ever meet.  Here are a few pictures of Ryan doing his thing at the launch…yes, that is Steph and me laying in front of him speeding towards us!  Don’t worry – he made the jump.

I’m getting better at writing more frequently – will write again soon.