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 the Alpine Skier, Brad Spence. Scroll, read and enjoy!
Let's dive into it!
I was just 4 when the 1988 Olympic Games rolled through Calgary, and one of my earliest childhood memories was watching the athletes march into McMahon Stadium. 22 years later, I was fortunate enough to live out my childhood dream of dawning the Canadian colours and the Olympic rings and to compete for our great country.
However, the journey that my childhood dream took me on was far rockier and complex than I ever thought possible as a young boy.
Along the way, I broke 8 bones, 3 teeth, had 8 surgeries, missed 4 seasons, had enough metal put in me to set off any metal detector at the airport, and in fact, nearly lost my leg from complications following a crash that left me with permanent nerve damage in my lower right leg and foot.
Through it all, I had medical specialist and ski coaches alike tell me I’d never make a full recovery and compete at the Olympic level. And this only stoked my internal desire to prove them wrong.
When I zipped up my Olympic team jacket for the first time, with CANADA across the chest, and the Olympic rings on the left shoulder, the emotions stirred up. I’d made it. I’d stared adversity straight in the eyes. I didn’t let fear or uncertainty win. The 4-year-old kid inside of me couldn’t have imagined how powerful this moment would be.
Although my results from Vancouver or Sochi weren’t what I’d dreamt of, the experiences that I had along the way shaped me to be the person I am today. The Olympic spirit is so much more than spandex and ruthless competition; it transcends sport. During my time as an Olympic athlete, I made it a priority to connect with my local community here in Calgary and share the message to dream big, set lofty goals, and to strive for success – however that looks to each individual. It was hearing what inspires people that originally gave me the giving ‘bug’, and ever since, I’ve had some of my most fulfilling experiences and growth opportunities by investing in the community.
It was this spirit that led me to wear a helmet at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi that was designed and painted by a patient at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Gillian O’Blenes was a 16-year-old Calgarian who dreamt of being a dancer on Broadway. Then she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which changed everything. I was initially introduced to Gillian by her nurse (and a good friend of mine) and immediately, we formed a strong bond that lasted through the end of her too-short life. During one of our hangouts at the hospital, I learned that she had an incredible artistic talent, and often turned to art as a coping/healing mechanism. I was so inspired by the stories that her art told, that I asked if she’d paint the helmet that I was to wear in a few months time when I competed at the Sochi Games. Having Gillian and her artwork as part of my Olympic journey was arguably one of my most powerful memories of my time as a professional ski racer. It turns out that for me, it was never about being the best that I could be. It was about elevating those around me to realize their ultimate potential.
Now, almost 4 years to the day that I competed in my last Olympic Games, I am the Founder and Executive Director of Creative Impact Health Foundation
, a non-profit that focuses on concussion awareness and educating the broad community on the importance of helmet safety to minimize the risk of traumatic brain injuries. Our team runs projects that we call Helmets for Heroes that bring together athletes, artists, and children battling adversity to collaborate and tell their inspirational stories through art.
Little did I know that that powerful memory that 4-year-old Brad had would lead me to where I am today, but man, am I ever grateful that it did!
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!