August 15, 2012 – In life, my parents always taught me “commitment”. Commitment to the task, commitment to the goal and most importantly commitment to the people you are surrounded by. London 2012 was a realization and an inspiration to what commitment really is for me as a coach and more importantly a partner in the journey of life.
Historically, performing in sport is about commitment, sacrifice and of course, having all your stars align on the day it matters. The Olympics is the biggest sporting stage any athlete can compete on and oddly enough at the Olympics, we find the most un natural environment to achieve performance and results. Going back to October 2011, we made a plan, a plan to not only get Emily to the Olympics but to also bring home a medal. Just getting to the Olympics was a challenge itself, so starting off on the right foot was important.
November 21st was about sacrifice. We jumped on a plane and headed for Tucson, Arizona for what was the start of a very early training season. The goal of each training program I write is always to keep it as fun as possible and focused on performance, a little break here, a party with friends there, a change in the training theme, or a well timed few days off. Keeping the program fun is just as important as the training and recovery pattern. After going through the program numerous times and having many sit down talks with Emily, we quickly realized with South Africa so early, Christmas home with the family wasn’t an option. It was our sacrifice to each other and the goal.
Our transition week was immediately followed up with our pre Olympic training camp in Livigno Italy. We have done altitude training camps before, they work well and for Emily in particular there are many benefits. Her natural speed as an athlete is a gift, its thought that altitude camps can dramatically reduce an athletes speed which was risky considering the course in London demanded a rider with a big engine, strength, power and pure speed. The ultimate goal of any training camp is to improve, we brought the on & off the bike strength back into the program, we improved Emily’s notorious enemy, “endurance” and we incorporated speed in the later weeks leading into the games. She carried serious training load through Val D’Isere World Cup.
Replicating peak performances is a challenging thing, it takes years to figure out what works best for each individual, the body’s balance of “fatigue” and “form” fluctuates, you must know your athletes well. The cycles and patterns of the training are important, the coaches goals and thoughts must be aligned with the athletes and both must believe and be confident in the program.
From November 21st 2011 to August 11th 2012, time had flown by and the week of the Olympic Mountain Bike races had arrived in full force. London was special, as soon as we landed on August 5th I could feel the energy in the air, it was amazing, I had so much confidence in what we had done through out the season and in the weeks leading up to the games, I knew a medal was truly achievable.
My heart sunk deeper, she broke down and I broke down as soon I was off the phone with her. I called my parents, I had no one else to talk to, I broke down again. Not because I was disappointed with her, not because I knew a medal was lost, not because she may or not be racing in the Olympics, but because I knew how hard she worked, how ready she was and how her dreams fell apart in the matter of seconds. Those last 5 weeks were full of sacrifice and commitment to one another, our bond to each other was the strongest it had ever been, I had never seen anybody work so hard for anything, it was heart breaking to see it taken away like that.
I had too quickly pull myself together and be her rock through this. Goals change, things can happen, these were the cards we were dealt and now it was about innovating and getting the most out of the situation. She was ademit she raced and represented Canada, its been her dream since she was young. It was one of the most emotional weeks I have ever had, I had to hide it well and be strong, Emily needed all the positive energy she could get.
Boosting an athletes confidence isn’t about enforcing what they are capable of. Thats only 1/4 of it, the other 3/4 of the puzzle is enforcing what they have done, how they have improved, where they have improved, how amazing they are and the level they have achieved. It convinces the athlete they are capable of 1st with out saying they could be 1st, saying “they could be” just equates to pressure. Getting them to believe in themselves and the program is the biggest advantage an athlete can have.
Being surrounded by amazing Cycling Canada staff, Subaru-Trek Staff, family and her determination to race was all enough good energy and reinforcement to bring her confidence back enough to race. The doctors gave her the green light, she would now be competing with an injury in her first of many Olympic Games, Emily raced the London 2012 Olympics on August 11th and achieved a placing of 24th out of 30 women with a broken collarbone.
The cards she was dealt were a huge disadvantage, we have to be able to perform on our worst days and her commitment was unsurpassed by any athlete on that course. Sacrifice is hard, the journey wether to glory or heartbreak is life shaping, its what you make of the moment, Emily proved that to us all and not only made Canada proud, she made the World proud. Everyones support has been amazing and we are already looking forward to Rio in 2016.