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03/26 2010

Back in California!

The last time that I was on this course would have been at the Pac-10 Conference Championships racing for Bob Ernst at UW in 2001.  Fast forward to today – I just rigged and rowed my single, and at 4 PM the sun was out and I was wearing just my uni suit.  I love the warm weather.

Part of my survival for being involved in a specific sport at such an intense level has always been to use my time away from the lake to get some healthy distance.  I traveled here today with Malcolm Howard from the men’s eight in 2008 and Mike Wilkinson, a newer guy to the team.  We talked about rowing for hours.  We had a 4 hour lay over in San Francisco that was gobbled up by our story telling.  There was something therapeutic, even cathartic about talking through past events with one of the guys who witnessed or experienced them with me.

Although I am not going to give up my sacred separation from rowing altogether, I do think that I want to let a bit more rowing into that space.  We’ll see how the balance happens.


Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
02/13 2010

Dedicated to Nodar Kumaritashvili

Nodar Kumaritashvili living his dream...

Nodar Kumaritashvili living his dream...

I was given a ticket to last night’s Opening Ceremonies through the BCLC and Olympians Canada.  Ironically I had an hour to get from downtown to Richmond to pick up the ticket.  After a long frustrating wait in a cab at a train track on Shell Street I got to the office at 3:29, with 1 minute to spare.

Yesterday was such a hard day to process as we all found out more details about the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili.  The bitter sweet for everyone is trying to celebrate the start of the games that have been coming for so long, while at the same time honouring the tragic loss of an Olympian.  As an athlete I know what it takes to get to ‘the big show’, but then to lose your life one day before you get to demonstrate your talent. 

And to lose his life at the age of 21…he would have been at many more Olympics.  I did not know Nodar’s name before yesterday, but I will never forget it now.  I was honoured to be in a hushed stadium with 60,000 other Olympic fans as we showed our respect with a minute of silence.

Rest in peace Nodar.

11/22 2009

1952 Helsinki Olympic Experience

Helsinki 1952 Poster

Helsinki 1952 Poster

I’m in Toronto right now. I flew here yesterday for Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Council meetings (renamed today Athletes’ Commission). I’ve gone to and calculated my carbon emissions for the trip (2.8 tonnes CO2); it only cost $70 to offset.

When I landed I hooked up with fellow Canadian Olympic rower Adam Kreek. Suddenly we were heading to the Argonaut Rowing Club’s annual awards banquet as guest speakers. We arrived at the club and immediately meet their eldest active member. At 89, Steve Sandor still rows his single, self-admittedly shorter distances than years past. Mr. Sandor and I spoke at length. As it turns out, Mr. Sandor is a Hungarian Olympic rower from 1952. In the course of our conversation he remembered to me, with great detail, the events that took him and his Hungarian crew mates from 1948 through to the ‘52 Helsinki Olympic Games.

At that time there were two rival rowing clubs in Budapest, one made up of only card-carrying Communists and his, an open mix of Party Members and non-party members alike; each vying to race the eight in Helsinki. Mr. Sandor’s story included stroke by stroke accounts of critical races against the communist club and a challenge race the Olympic year against the Germans. He recited precise measurements of his secret tactic to increase the size of his club’s blade surface area. He still held on to the exact weights of their hull, the brass oarlocks, seats and slides. In part because he so adamantly disagreed with the extra weight the strong ‘communist-designed’ boat carried. He said “We carried two coxswains”.

Rowers at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Rowers at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

It turns out the Hungarian Communist Party wanted to promote the strength of Party Values and their Communist Brothers at the games in Helsinki. Allegedly, Party Officials made every effort to disadvantage Mr. Sandor’s club in the selection process. Mr. Sandor’s club was faster though, and had been in smaller boats for years. Then, finally in late 1951 and throughout the 1952 season, they had the faster eight too.

As club captain Mr. Sandor requested a meeting with top Party Officials in order to clarify the selection process. Mr. Sandor and his crew were granted an audience, but they were told that only the three card-carrying Party Members were allowed to speak. It became clear to Mr. Sandor that the conversation was not going well and he could only sit quietly for so long. He told me that he stood up and bellowed “COMRADES”, because that was a sign of respect to Party Ideology, and from the far end of the table he continued in a level, calm voice “Will the fastest crew or the Communist crew race for Hungary in Helsinki?” Put that way, the Party Brass was backed into a corner. They agreed to race a best-of-three selection process between the two clubs; the fastest crew would race in Helsinki. A week later Mr. Sandor’s crew won the first two races and was selected to represent Hungary at the 1952 Olympic Games.

Opening of the 1952 Olympic Games

Opening of the 1952 Olympic Games

Years later, at a party, after the fall of communism in Hungary, Mr. Sandor saw those same ex-party officials he had stood up to in 1952. With great respect the men retold the story of Mr. Sandor’s passion and bravery for everyone to hear. Now, 57 years later, I’ve been inspired by his story.

[Olympic] Dreams are worth fighting for, worth sticking your neck out for, and can only be realized by unwavering self-belief and commitment. Mr. Sandor embodies inspiring Olympic values. If the young rowers I chatted with last night at the Argonaut Rowing Club learn these values from Mr. Sandor now, they will be formidable at everything they do in life.


Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
11/2 2009

Torch Experience (runner 007)

no images were found

I thought that I knew what I was in for. I figured it would be impossible to surprise me – surely by now, with 3 Olympics under my belt, I’d experienced it all. Boy, was I wrong. The blue bridge, the Johnson Street Bridge, will forever be a part of my Olympic experience now – unique in every way.

When Rob Reed (runner 006) came up to me, carrying the Olympic flame, I could feel my excitement building. Then the RCMP officer turned my torch on. Propane flowing, Rob passed the flame from his torch to mine. Awkwardly, each carrying a flaming torch, we embraced. Then I turned, and I was on my own. I was holding the flame. For 300 metres I was the chosen ambassador, holding a symbol of hope and inspiration. As I slowly crossed the bridge, waving to friends and strangers alike, the significance of the flame, of the games-to-come was reaffirmed in my head. All the choices I’d made over my life to pursue Olympic excellence amounted to more than just financial debt and an incredibly patient family. In that moment of reverence I saw how my unique role plugs into the bigger picture. What I do and how I act matters, and it makes a difference. Thousands of Olympic athletes, me included, and our stories really do have the potential to inspire and engage an up-and-coming generation; we can help them realize that they can accomplish anything they want.

It all hit me:

The generation my children belong to has a shorter life-expectancy than my own. This is a first – and it’s disturbing. Processed foods, video games and the societal fear of letting children venture outdoors alone have all helped to create a prison for our kids. Promoting a sedentary life, in which the TV babysits and in part educates our children’s choices. How do we break free of this trap? I looked up at that flame – burning bright – and saw a symbol that could ignite the imagination of that generation – a symbol that could get kids off the couch and onto the field of play.

This flame, for the few steps I held, is calling the best athletes from around the globe to British Columbia. Their stories of struggle, dedication and perseverance will be showcased for everyone to see. Their dreams will dangle in the balance, some will be realized, while most will be delayed by 4 years (and in some cases forever).

Then it all came home – I came to the end of the bridge deck and saw my 5-year-old cheering me on. A wave of emotion hit me like a ton of bricks and I started to tear up. If there is one thing I have taught my daughter through the actions I’ve taken in my life it is not to be afraid to dream a wild and crazy dream, and to pursue that dream to the ends of the earth with an unwavering self belief – even if it takes 22 years. My example has been through sport – but she knows her dream can be anything she wants.

I was disappointed to hear that 10 torch bearers could not run their 300 metres in Victoria on day 1 of the relay; not because I don’t support the right to protest, but because of the lost opportunity for those 10 people to inspire the people in their lives.

The Olympics are coming to BC, like it or not. We all have a choice now. Let’s use the opportunities the games offer to enrich our society and to create lasting legacies for future generations. The Olympics provide a stage in which, creatively and constructively, almost any cause can be furthered. But above all else, let’s reverse the state in which we find our young people.

If you object, please do so respectfully: don’t ruin someone else’s dream.


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10/8 2009

Social Media and the Olympics

Project Blue Sky

Project Blue Sky

I’ve been following Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun’s Olympic Reporter: “Inside the Olympics“.  On October 4th Jeff wrote about a critical point the IOC is at in its global marketing, and the fact that they have to get younger people interested in the Olympics now or face grave consequences.  You can read Jeff’s full article called “IOC told to get hip with the digital revolution” by following this link.  It seems to me that the work folks have been doing on Project Blue Sky starts to fill the gap that Jeff wrote about and that Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group warned about. 

Here are my comments to Jeff: 


Really enjoying your Olympic coverage and cheers for recently pointing a spotlight on the relative dearth of Olympic-related social media.

However, I’m happy to point you in the direction of one very cool SoMe initiative already living and breathing on the “Olympic stage”, Project Blue Sky:

Project Blue Sky brings together Canadian athletes and some of BC’s bleeding-edge digital media students in a public engagement campaign to encourage individuals to reduce their personal carbon footprint. Project Blue Sky combines the reach and community of social networking with the energy and motivating influence of prominent Olympic, Paralympic and high-performance athletes to get people thinking about their carbon use. And it lives inside the Olympic umbrella and supports other Olympic-associated carbon-reduction efforts.

This is athlete led. The generation connected through SoMe is also the generation using it to encourage and promote carbon reduction efforts associated to the 2010 Games.

So – to all you in my little network, here is a call to action!  If you are looking for a tangible way to do something for the environment, here it is.  Jump on board and start thinking and acting about your personal carbon footprint.  Head to the project site and start logging and blogging.  Log your carbon reduction efforts and blog about them to encourage others.  The high performance athletes out there – here’s a chance to leverage your ‘star power’ for good – sign up as a featured athlete and spread the word to the masses.

On our own we can’t make much of a difference, but added up we can move mountains.


09/3 2009

IRONMAN: The Definition of Success

Scott Frandsen

Scott Frandsen

How do we judge whether a person is successful or not?  It is easiest to place our individual values on others – after all, our values are the constructs of the glasses we view the world through.  Certain people however, elevate themselves above the individual value-based constructs to be judged more globally as either successful or unsuccessful.  Bill Gates, Jean Chretien and Michael Jordon seem to land in the former, while Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and Ben Johnson fit the latter.  It is important to note, though, that all 6 personalities were considered extremely successful at one point, and can easily argue that they still are.  So that begs the question…how do we judge success?

In order to enter the realm of success, either in the negative or the positive, one has to take a risk.  It is impossible to move mountains if you don’t get out of bed… 

Scott at Cal

Scott at Cal

Scott Frandsen is someone who fits into the globally-accepted successful column.  Scott took up rowing as a second sport to golf late in high school.  As a ‘walk-on’ at university he muscled his way on to the best college rowing team in the States at the time.  He was awarded a scholarship only after he proved himself more useful than the full-ride kids.  Then he went on to win a couple of national championships for the school while completing a BS in Business Administration from the University of California.

Scott winning the Boat-race

Oxford 2003

He went on to finish a Masters of Psychology at Oxford University a few years later.  The letters behind his name are worth a few dollars, mostly paid for through Scott’s grit and talent.  While in England, he also happened to win the most watched, oldest running rowing event in the world, the Oxford/Cambridge “Boat Race”. 

Upon returning to Canada Scott had to prove his valour once again with the national team, and within a year had indirectly knocked me out of a seat in the defending world champion 8+, heading into the Olympics.  His dreams weren’t realized in Athens though, and four years later, kilometre after kilometre of training under his belt, he won an Olympic silver medal in Beijing.  I’m tired just writing about the things he’s accomplished…you’d think he might take a break.  Not Scott!

It’s guys like Scott who continually redefine what success means.  One might think that after a life-long pursuit of excellence in sport, Scott might want to sit back and relax.  You know, maybe get a job in the public service.  Not Scott, no.  Over the last year, between a few injuries and a lot of stress, Scott trained for and competed in triathlons, building up for Ironman CanadaLast weekend Scott raced and finish Ironman Canada.  In rowing we trained for hours on end, week in and week out, month after month for years – for a 6 minute race.  On Sunday, August 30th, for 10 hours, 41 minutes and 16 seconds Scott raced to prove something to himself.  He raced to redefine success one more time.  He raced because life did not end on August 16, 2008 in Beijing China.  Scott looked for the next great thing.  Well done Scott. 

Remember this then, there are two major steps to success: 

1. You MUST take a risk, and
2. You MUST always look for the next challenge.

Food for thought,

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, 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.

06/24 2009

Father’s Day Cultural Experience

cowichan-spirit-pole-021This past Sunday was Father’s Day, but it was also National Aboriginal Day here in Canada. A year ago Sunday, Prime Minister Steven Harper historically apologized to the survivors of Residential Schools in Canada – acknowledging the Government of Canada’s oppression of First Nations’ culture and families.

In stark contrast, this Sunday I awoke to the sound of whispers coming from Mira’s room, interspersed with the crinkling of paper. My girls delivered my morning latte to me in bed with a special poem folded up and a “love-bug” piece of artwork from Mira. Blissfully we lounged until it was time to start our day.

I had been invited to speak at a Act Now BC Road to 2010 activation event in Duncan, BC, that coincided with the ceremonial unveiling of a Spirit Pole. We had no idea the cultural experience we were about to witness.

When I give talks I tell people about the importance of role models in my life. It took hundreds of people to lift me onto the Olympic stage. My message to kids is to have wild and crazy dreams, but to back them a solid plan. I’ll often point out the teachers and parents in the room as resources to them. In other words, I talk about community.cowichan-spirit-pole-009

This last Sunday, on the traditional territory of the Cowichan Tribes, Rachel, Mira and I witnessed the meaning of community in action. In front of a crowd of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike, the Chief, Council and Elders of the Cowichan Tribes unveiled a new Spirit Pole commemorating the 2008 North American Aboriginal Games. Special guests at the ceremony included the Duncan Mayor and Council and Minister Abbott, BC’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

Last August the Cowichan Valley was the sporting place to be – not Beijing after all. They played host to the North American Indigenous Games, boasting undisputedly that their games were the best games ever. But the Cowichan Tribes wanted to draw a larger community into the games, and they wanted to share their culture with other communities across BC and around the world, including non-aboriginal communities. Their torch relay turned into a touring collaboration Spirit Pole.

Carey Newman was commissioned to be the master carver/artist of a cedar log from Stanley Park, which toured across BC for 13-weeks stopping in 51 different communities. Thousands of people from across BC shared in carving a bit of what has grown into the beautiful Spirit Pole on permanent display outside the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.

cowichan-spirit-pole-014The power of this project and the pride of the people involved were so clear to all present at the ceremony. Bearing witness of the event was humbling and left me wishing I had been involved, even just in a small way. There were leftover shavings from the pole in the crevasses of the trailer it traveled on. I was tempted to take one for prosperity but my reverence for the process gave me a sense of pride simply to witness the community’s achievement.

To the people of the Cowichan Tribes, and specifically those involved in the creation of the Spirit Pole, you have accomplished something of cultural significance that will be shared with generations to come. Congratulations.

Posted in All Blogs, Perspectives
04/29 2009

Victoria International Marina

calder-publicmeeting-apr29Tonight I had the honour of Speaking at my first Public Meeting. I played a small role in a significant evening.

I know that I have a responsibility to remain apolitical in my role as a BC Public Servant, and that has required some thought on my part. There were not that many public servants who returned from the Olympics to a jurisdiction preparing for the next games – but I did – when opportunity knocks…

My problem is that I prefer taking action than sitting on the side-line. If I believe in something or someone, I become invested in that cause 110% – sorry, old sports cliché. That is how I became a three time Olympian, and an Olympic medalist, by working for what I believe in, am passionate about and creating more opportunities for myself.

It is hard for me to sit back during this BC Provincial Election Campaign and watch while candidates that I support ideologically across the province are in the trenches fighting for their seat in the Legislative Assembly. I find the similarities to the “seat-racing” of crew selection ironically similar. Ultimately, there will be winners, and there will be losers, and we will all have to live with those results – so get out and vote.

But there are areas of the political world that are “in-bounds”, as far as I’m concerned, for a public servant such as myself. I had the opportunity to participate in the Torch-Relay Launch-City announcement with MLA Rob Fleming a few months ago. Likewise, my high school asked me to help host Premier Gordon Campbell at the Brentwood Regatta this past weekend. These are great opportunities for me, but completely apolitical, in terms of party support.

Tonight was more than these experiences though. Tonight was about taking action for something I believe in – 110%.

Tonight was about community – our community. There is a proposed marina development for the Victoria Harbour that will significantly impact the current use of the harbour. Individuals, recreational outfitters, tourism and industrial users will all be impacted – for better or for worse. Tonight there was an impressive line-up of speakers, with the intent of providing valuable information about the marina and the magnitude of its impact on our community.

Tonight was about sharing my experience in the harbour as a returning Olympian, struggling to fight back from a debilitating back injury – on a long road towards my dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. Tonight was about sharing my experience as a coach and role model for youth-at-risk in one of many community programs utilizing the harbour.

We have not been adequately consulted yet. This proposal, in its current form, does not take into consideration the community’s needs or best interest. All parties need to attempt to reach a compromise so that all social, environmental and economic concerns can be addressed.

With significant public participation – on both sides – perhaps we can find the middle ground. Our community deserves it.

Be a positive role model for someone today!