Olympic challenge

The winter olympics are here which means an ample dose of ‘stoke.’ Its probably my favourite sporting event because of the personal relationship I have to it – a former athlete, snow/winter crazy and a bonus of after so many years seeing familiar faces as athletes or coaches and of course remembering the days were you were driven not just to excel in your sport, but to have fun. They were good times (more on those stories and adventures during the games).

So, when the olympics and world cup roll around, I seem to have fallen into the habit of putting on my own challenge. Simply, for as many days as you can during the Olympics, do something sporty with a maximum 2 days off per week. The easiest thing is time your gym visits during prime time coverage. Today, I was running on the treadmill watching the mens half pipe. During the world cup, I also try to time my gym times to the games – a player runs an average of 8km during a game, so a 45 min run generating 6-7km is not bad. This is something similar to what my once orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Feldman also used to do – but he would do 1 hour of sport every day – tennis one day, running another and so on. He’s also the team surgeon for the New York Rangers (he also used to  tell me stories of how the spines and rib cages of those hockey players were so twisted from all the hitting, that a 30 year old hockey players spine and ribs looked much older than that). Back to the challenge: who’s with me?

My count so far (to be updated as things continue)
Day 1: Yoga
Day 2: off
Day 3: Spinning
Day 4: Run 4.22km

Day 5: Run 5.35km

And remember, its not about the podium, its about having fun. (Here’s me with my teammates in Doha in December 2013 – the jersey is from the Olympic Oval Women’s High Performance Ice Hockey program in Calgary, Canada ie be a full time hockey player. I was an athlete there from 1995-99. The program generated many olympians and national team players some who are still playing as well as world class coaches. Play hockey weekdays, snowboard on the weekends. What a privilege.)

"Why are you going to #Doha?" "To play hockey, duh" Here's the 'Dreamliner' last years jersey #'s 8,9,10.

A post shared by Esra 🏒🏂 (@esrad) on

Cheering for Canada. Ok ok, others too…

I wish I was in Vancouver to see the games. I wish I had a TV right about now, just so I could cheer for the folks I know STILL competing and satiate my winter dreams. So, what does it take to be an athlete, what is that life like?…and why am I cheering for Canada? I was looking through and old workout book from 1997, this was a typical day:

  • Off ice (stairs) 20 mins
  • Bike (warm up & stretch (45 mins)
  • Hockey  – 75 mins
  • Run (cool down)  – 15 mins
  • Weights – 50 mins

Total time: 3 hours, 25 minutes.

Of course, that doesn’t include time to and from the

My field of dreams: yes, two hockey rinks, ice all around, 6 lane running track + weight room, massage every two weeks or so + ice baths on hand. Add snow+ mountains = pretty much perfect

Oval in Calgary, as well as dress-up, dress down time, usually about 15 minutes each way. It was truly the dream place to live and train at, and a shame that because of the global financial situation, the University of Calgary cut the women’s hockey funding this season. It symbolizes the end of an era, started by Shannon Miller, former National/Olympic team coach in 1995 and now at UMD, arguably the most successful women’s hockey coach ever. Her philosophy in starting the program was, ‘come here, and be the best you can be.’ She was also responsible for getting me to play college hockey in the US.

Imagine now doing this for 5-6 days a week, 8 months a year. Then imagine fitting in a day or two at the mountains for snowboarding on the weekends, if no games were on. In the remainder 4 months, you get one month off then its into summer training, consisting of long aerobic sessions such as 2 hour+ bike rides, plyometrics, weight/resistance training. I loved it. Between 1995-1999, that was what I got to do, in Calgary, Canada. I usually spent the off-seasons tagging along with speedskaters, who stuck around during the summer. Now as an Aussie, the Canuckers skated circles around me. That didn’t matter, I learnt to push and go beyond what you mentally and physically think you are capable of: life lessons which stuck. Not everyone of course would go crazy for this lifestyle, but everyone I knew back then did, and everyone I knew back then still remembers those days warmly.

Being an athlete means being disciplined. It means committing yourself to a goal that may elude you at any second. Out of the maybe hundred or so girls who came through the program in Calgary, there are but a handful still on the national/Olympic team. I met like minded folks from everywhere – many like me, coming from the Southern Hemisphere chasing a winter dream. No support from our countries, no sponsors. Huge personal sacrifices – live away from your family, sacrifice relationships or go long distance, be away from your friends, delay school or juggle with it, juggle work also. As an Australian, I knew there was no way I was going to get to the games based on qualification/tournaments. Canada and the US were just light years ahead. So why did I do it? For the same reason the crazy Aussie/Kiwi/South African speed skaters, the Jamaican bob-sledders (yes they do exist and yes they do say ya’mon) do it – because we love it we’re chasing a dream to be the best of what we choose to do, and have fun along the way.

I used to rock up to this entrance almost every snowy winter day...

I lived with speedskaters, with our landlords being the parents of this fellow. One of my housemates was constantly doing imitations – ie. mimicking the motions of speed-skating. He was a long distance skater, who truly gave it his all – no sponsors, no fixed address, just following his dream. Then one day, he switched to sprint distances and then…

I’m cheering for Canada because of all the light and possibility it gave to my dreams. I’m still competing, in different sports and in different ways, but some still continue that same regimen, 11 years on. Here’s one, below, Captain of Team Canada, who took me to see my first Calgary-Detroit game, who kept on going and continues to inspire. Everyone needs heroes. Sports psychologist Cal Botterill, whose daughter Jennifer continues to compete on Team Canada led me to “Way of the Peaceful Warrior“, which spurred me onto so much more – and its a book that has literally travelled with friends all over the world. It was a different nomadic existence, and one I miss and would love to relive in some capacity, though much has changed and many have moved on. Such are the journey’s of life.

taking us along the journey: http://twitter.com/wick_22

So,  GO CANADA and all the athletes who have ever trained or had anything to do with those Calgary Oval days! (and esp. Ms. Wickenheiser here, who proved that Superwomen do indeed exist).