This year for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics we wanted to get involved, we wanted to show our support and provide Canadians with a chance to build community during the games. Our Olympic Campaign aims to amplify Canadian spirit and community throughout the 16-day duration. We've reached out to some Calgarian Olympic athletes who have experienced the Olympics first hand and tonight we're hearing from Ski Jumper, Eric Mitchell! Scroll, read and enjoy!
Let's dive into it!
Photos by Meraki Supply Co
So, where did it all begin? I was born and raised here in Calgary, and from as early as 8 years old, I was running through the hallways of my elementary school, boasting to my classmates about how I was going to compete in the sport of Ski Jump at the Olympic Games one day. My best friend, Mady, even made me a sign that read “Fly Eric Fly.” Growing up with the legacy of the Calgary 1988 OWG provided me with the privilege to dream, and I dreamt big. Sports had always been an important part of my life, but it wasn’t until I entered high school that it became my entire life. In high school, I was a shy skinny kid with purple hair, and no one was expecting that I would be competing for Canada one day. Things were tough for me back then, and I was craving a place to channel my energy and passion. I found that place on a trip to visit the site of the Olympic Ski Jumps being built for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I was 14 years old and had the audacity to dream that I could compete there in front of a home crowd in just 3 years. From that moment on, I dedicated every ounce of energy to the selfish pursuit of becoming the best athlete I could possibly be.
How did I make it? Three years later on December 18, 2009, I was the lone Canadian competing in the final qualifying event for the Vancouver Games. The three other members of my team had already met the international qualifying standard, which was top 70 on the world ranking list. I needed to place 30th or better in this event in order to secure our team's participation at the home Olympics. Pressure. It was a damn cold day, and the conditions were all over the place, but when I hiked up to take the fateful jump, I was determined that I could do this. All said and done, I placed 30th; my Olympic spot was determined by 50cm in the right direction.
For me, it feels like just yesterday when I arrived in Vancouver when I was a 17-year-old ski jumper ready to make my mark on the world. Back then, I was a self-conscious teenager, sexuality unresolved, craving the validation that my sport provided me. At the same time, I was lacking confidence in being one of the best 70 athletes in the world. What I am realizing 8 years later is just how significant a mark the Olympic Rings left on me.
So, what did I do next? I retired from ski jumping in 2013, shifting my time towards completing my BComm degree at the University of Calgary. However, sports was harder to let go of then I thought it would be. Sports had given me so many tremendous gifts, and I knew that I had a huge responsibility to give back to that which had given me so much. In 2014, I was a founding ambassador of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s LGBTQ Inclusion program, and I have lent my voice and name to advancing diversity in sport. In 2016, I was appointed by the International Olympic Committee to the Young Change Maker program, where I am currently assisting in the creation of a Youth Strategy while also overseeing aspects of the Youth Olympic Games.
I am incredibly excited to cheer on my fellow ski jumpers who are competing at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games tomorrow! As our entire country unites around an Olympic Team that is more inclusive than ever before, I can’t help but think about the potential to magnify the reach. I am dreaming about the tremendous opportunity that we have to bid on hosting the games in Calgary in 2026. I know this city, and I am a living legacy of the 1988 Olympics. Right now, I am dreaming about the potential for providing the next generation of Calgarians the same privilege that I had growing up: to dream big.
Photos by Meraki Supply Co
Tune in next week to see what we have on the blog! If you or someone you know would like to be a guest blogger on our blog drop us a line! Chat at chaaa next week Canada - stay local!