Canadian Olympic Medal Winning Speedskater, LGBT Ally
What did you want to become when you were a child?
My parents always loved watching the Olympics, and put me into speed skating when I was only three. Some of my earliest memories are on skates, and going to the Olympics was something that I always dreamed of. Back in grade school though I was also convinced I would become a doctor one day.
How did your friends/family react when you told them you wanted to become a speed skater?
I suppose the day I decided to forego taking any university classes and focus on speed skating, in 2005, was in hindsight, the same day I decided I wanted to put all my eggs in one basket and become a speed skater. A few months later I was on my way to my first Olympics in Torino! Family and friends were all very supportive!
Were you ever bullied as a child? What were some of your coping mechanism?
Growing up in Fort St. John, a small town in northern BC, hockey was the end all - be all of sport for most guys my age. Most friends, many of whom were hockey players, were quite supportive of me being a speed skater and congratulated me on my successes in the sport. Sometimes some of the more arrogant players would bully me about my sport, made fun of me for being a "figure skater", laughed because I competed in spandex, called me rude names, and insinuated that I was gay.
I think I was able to brush it off in large part because my older brother, Jay, was also a speed skater. I looked up to him then (and still do now), and thought that since he was a speed skater, I knew I wanted to be a speed skater too. I was also successful in my sport, at the age class level, which helped me to feel I'd made the right decision in sticking to what I knew felt right for me. The more I got bullied the more committed to my decision I became.
Tell us what a normal day looks like in preparation for the Olympics:
Depends which day of preparation. If I'm on ice for training at 10am, I'll have my alarm set for 8, ride my bike over to the dinning center, eat two eggs, potatoes, ketchup, two slices of ham, one slice of cheese, firmly wrapped in a tortilla shell. Along side that, a bowl of muesli with fruit and nuts, with plain yogurt. Sometimes a cup of tea, if I had a short sleep, otherwise just a bottle of water. After that I usually brought my skates with me and will head straight to the oval (via bicycle of course), and arrive at 9:00. Warmup for 15-20 minutes on a stationary bike, 5-10 minutes of calisthenics, then see my massage therapist for 5-20 minutes to make sure my body is square and moving properly. After that I spend 15-20 minuted getting changed and getting onto the ice. The on ice program itself varies a lot, but usually is between 75-90 minutes. Back off the ice, change again, eat a lite snack, like a protein or granola bar (depending on the workout) then back onto the stationary bike for 20' warm down spin, followed by 15-20' of stretching before I bike straight back to the dining hall for lunch. Post training lunch is usually a pasta dish with bolognese sauce, and a plate full of salad with added hard boiled egg and ham. Bike back to my apartment in the athletes village, either relax in the athletes lounge, or go to team meetings, or seek treatment. Later in the afternoon, 2-4 hours after finishing my morning training, I will do a second training session. Either an extended bike ride or short but intense weight lifting session. Snack after and then ride to the dinning center for dinner. Spend the remainder of the day relaxing and trying to recover as much as possible so I can repeat it all again on the next training day!
Could you bring us back to that moment when you won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics; what was going through your mind:
I was mostly in disbelief when I crossed the line. I had completely drained all of my energy into that race and could hardly stand up once we crossed the line. Afterwards when our team was in the staging area getting ready to receive our medals, I saw my Olympic Gold medal, in person, for the first time. I remember thinking to myself, "wow, that's actually mine! I've wanted to win one of these for such a long time, and there it is!" It was a moment I will never forget.
Going into the 2014 Olympics, what are you most enthused about, what are your biggest reservations:
I'm so happy to be competing for Canada at my third Olympics. I think the Sochi Olympics will be like no other Olympics because of the amount of money being spent to put them on. Sometimes I'm worried about corruption, but ultimately I'm just excited to race on the greatest stage of my sport!
How/Why did you become an "ally" to the LGBT community:
It wasn't a very pre-meditated thing, and my actual sponsorship from Twisted Element started well before the anti-gay legislation in Russia came about. I suppose my inspiration ultimately came from a teammate of mine, Spencer Zettler, who ended up bar tending at Twisted Element. He took some flack and a lot of questions before it was finally accepted by all that he is a straight guy who is simply working at a gay bar. There was no gay, cult-like, pre-requisite or initiation he had to perform to be accepted and be friends with these people or work at that bar. Eventually he convinced a group of us to join him for a night out (in the off season of course) at Twisted Element. We all had a great night. Was tonnes of fun dancing to the live mixed electronic music, and making lots of new friends. Not once was I made to feel uncomfortable at any point during the night and it was easy to talk to everyone whether they were straight or not. After a few more times visiting Spencer I came to the realization that I didn't even have to know if anyone I spoke with was gay or straight, because it really didn't matter. Eventually I started hearing more stories about various peoples' experiences with discrimination from strangers, family and friends throughout their lives. What got to me the most was that, upon hearing these stories, I realized that I myself had been at the delivering end of a number of those types of situations.
I had this epiphany that, although I was never gay or confused about it growing up, perhaps the ridicule about my sport which I received made me want to reinforce how NOT gay I was by partaking in anti-gay behavior, to assert my level of straightness. It seems ridiculous now, but growing up as an impressionable teen in a small town, wanting to fit in, it seemed like the normal thing to do.
Somewhere in the time between my first and 5th visits to Twisted Element in 2010, I came to the realization that how you treat someone or talk to them, it should not only not matter if a person is gay or not, but whether someone thinks I'm gay or not, really doesn't matter to me at all either and it really shouldn't to anyone.
Unfortunately, in many cases, both of these things which should not matter at all, still do matter a great deal to some people, and the ridiculousness for which I reflect on how I treated some of my gay friends in the past is more obvious to me now than ever when I hear about that type of discrimination, or witness it, today. I'm still not perfectly scripted on the correct messages or wording to support the LGBT community, however if simply treating gay friends with the same respect as I'd treat any friend makes me an "ally", then please count me in.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far:
My greatest accomplishment to date is an Olympic Gold Medal in the Team Pursuit, from the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Who inspires you/Who do you look up to the most, and why?
My brother inspires me. I'm constantly learning from him. Whether in sport growing up, or in life still today.
What aspects of your job do you like best/least?
I like that I get to travel the world, see new places, meet new people, and that my time spent "working", is in fact time spent living as fit and healthy of a life as possible.
Describe your style in terms of fashion:
I like to keep things simple. T-Shirt and shorts or jeans. Semi formal for me equals dress shirt and nicer pants. Maybe, just maybe, I'll throw on a blazer. If I'm gonna dress it up though, I go straight to full suit and tie. All or nothing kind of a guy.
What makes you happy?
Music. Quality Music. Like EDM.
What is your favorite song at the moment, and of all time?
With the constantly developing world of EDM it's really tough to say. But going back to my youth, I've always enjoyed a lot of Metallica songs. "The Unforgiven" comes to mind.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Transformers (But only the first one!)
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
I have a soft spot for nachos and cheese...literally.
Describe yourself in 5 words:
What do you most value in people?
Humor, health, kindness, calmness, grammar, and energy.
Name 3 things people don't know about you:
1) I gave up video games because they make me antisocial, ruin my mood, and make me miserable...all for nothing.
2) New Years 2012 I made the resolution of "no excuses", and have been living by it ever since, feeling happier and more successful than ever before. Making excuses prevents us from realizing the root of our own fault, which prevents us from learning from it so we can improve the next time. Park the ego.
3) If I have a part in choosing the names of my kids one day, I want to name them all after people who have been influential in my life. It's because of this that I want to have a dozen kids or more.
What is your motto?
Your level of success is predetermined only by your level of effort.
Any last words?
Be happy. Save money. Ride a bike. Love your life.