LEARNINGS FROM A 21-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST
With the Paralympics just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to talk about someone very inspiring I had the opportunity to meet last week, at canfitpro. She delivered the closing Keynote and she quickly became my new hero! Let me introduce her to you and tell you a little bit about the learnings I extracted from her powerful speech.
Let me introduce you to my new hero: Chantal Petitclerc. She's a Canadian wheelchair racer, a 21-time Olympic medalist AND she's a Canadian Senator. She is absolutely fantastic. She's from St-Marc-des-Carrières, in Quebec, Canada, which is about 20 minutes away from where I'm from: St-Raymond de Portneuf. She lost the use of both her legs at just 13 years old, at a friend's farm. One of her high school's Physical Education teachers, Gaston Jacques, had a decisive influence in her life: he taught her how to swim on lunchtimes, three times a week, which got her fit and strong so she could live a more independent life. This also helped her discover her competitive drive.
Now, I won't read you her whole Wikipedia page, but wow. She's impressive. The first five gold medals she won were at the 2004 Paralympics, and she tied the existing Canadian gold medal record in one single Paralympic year. Then, she went on to win another five gold medals in the 2008 Paralympics. That, once again, tied the record. Now, as of 2012, she holds five world records for wheelchair racing, and as of 2019, she's still the most decorated female Paralympic athlete with 14 gold medals and 21 medals in total. She is so impressive.
She hesitated after this long winning strike, chatting with her coach: "Am I going to go back to the next Paralympics?" And her coach looked at her and said: "Who are we kidding? Of course you're going to go!" Because nobody had ever done it. Two Paralympics in a row, winning five gold medals the first time, and five more the next.
What impressed me the most about Chantal is her humility, and how she gave credit, for her success, to everyone around her that supported her and that had an impact in her life.
Today, I'd like to share some of the learnings I wrote down on pages and pages of notes that took as I cried my eyes out, listening to her absolutely eloquent keynote last weekend. Chantal said a few things that really resonated with me.
"My means were very limited and my results were not conclusive at the beginning, but I had passion." Do you have something that maybe you don't have all necessary resources to pursue right now? Maybe you're not yet getting the big results you'd have hoped for, but you have the passion. Keep going.
"Someday, someone will do it. Why not me?" She was referring to doing the impossible, winning five gold medals at two Paralympics in a row. It had never been done before.
"Who has the power to make this happen?" One of her coaches asked her: "Who has the power to make this happen?" And she said: "Uhhh, I guess that'd be me!" She's so humble. Right? She presents everything in such an amazing way. She's absolutely adorable. Well, yes. That WOULD be you! What is your dream and who has the power to make it happen? I guess that would be you, right?
"It did not take me 16 seconds to win this medal. It took me 20 years." And that's what happens whenever we win some awards or prizes, or we get to a milestone. It's not the actual thing that you just did that really counts. It's your whole past, 20 years of working on it. You need to understand that it takes time and that you need to keep going whenever you feel a little unmotivated.
"If I wanted to bring a medal home, no one would give it to me for free. I needed to work for it." How impressive is that? Are you working towards your goal, or are you waiting for people to find you or to discover you or to give you the recognition for free? Work for it, because Chantal certainly did.
"There are some moments that you win with your head, your heart and your gut." She was talking about one of the races and said: " I knew this one was not one I was going to win with my muscles. It would be with my head, with my heart, with my gut." Sometimes, it's not about the actual skills, or the course, or the diploma, or whatever it is that you may have. It's with your heart and with your gut that you will win something or that you will achieve your goal.
She also said that when she and her coach decided that she would go back to the Paralympics, they analyzed every aspect of her performance, they looked at every single detail and they tried to improve every single thing. When you add up all these extras, they'll make a big difference in the end. Take some time in your own life to evaluate every single detail, every single element that is included in your overall success. And if you improve a little bit in all these little different areas, in the end, it will add up.
"Mindset is how to be in control of everything that you can control and then to be ready for everything that you cannot control." This quote is actually very dear to my heart, since it's so close to my values and to what I do. It's very powerful, because when you have the proper mindset, that means that you're ready for the things you can control. But when unexpected things happen that you cannot control, then you can at least be ready to face that challenge.
"It doesn't matter the challenges that we face. How we choose to face these challenges is what matters." Absolutely. Challenges will always be coming at you. Square up and face them with the proper mindset.
So thank you, Chantal, thank you so much. I have to say that I had not been inspired like this for a long time. I am eternally grateful for this amazing keynote that you delivered last week at canfitpro. You are an absolute role model, humble and accomplished. Thank you so much for all the learnings!
DO YOU DOUBT YOURSELF SOMETIMES?
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Check out some of my previous blog posts...
Visualization Doesn't Work... Unless You Do This
Overthinking Part One: Why Do We Overthink?
Procrastination Part One: The Types of Procrastination