Friday, September 25, 2009


Someone once told me that to be your best, you had to be confidant. If you doubted yourself, you were holding back so much of what you could really be without even realizing it. When I was competing, I dreaded those days when I knew I wasn't ready. I knew that I wasn't where I should be, name it. It's such an indescribable feeling, but it's awful. People who know me, know that I'm a confidant person, but I definitely have those nervous, self conscious moments too. When I was asked to be a panel speaker on Athletes' Rights and Representation for an Olympic Reform Conference this year at the University of Toronto I was incredibly honored and excited. When I got off the phone with Dr. Bruce Kidd, Dean of Physical Education and Health at the University, I squealed for probably the second time in my whole life and then my stomach dropped. I had never done this before. I know what I believe in, but now I would be voicing that opinion in front of some of the most influential people in our sporting community and the media. I wasn't just an overzealous athlete with dreams of a better international sport system anymore, this was serious. I would have the chance to not only state my beliefs, but criticize our Olympic governance and make recommendations for the future. When I first began writing my notes I hit that wall. That what if everyone takes one look at me and wonders what this young girl is doing there wall. It took me a few drafts, but I gained that confidence to stand up in front of all those people and make them listen to me. It was empowering in such a different way than I was used to and am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to speak.


Here are some of my favorite parts of what's been on my mind lately...

My main goal has always been to increase awareness among the athletes. Most of them don’t even know their rights as a national team member, or what kind of decisions are being made without their knowledge. I believe that NSOs can often easily start functioning like a business, pushing themselves further and further from an athletes’ centered organization. So without truly even defining the role of your own athlete representative at the Board level its easier to keep this position more as a figurehead instead of being an active athlete member that can effect change. Without an active and powerful athlete body within the IOC, COC or any other governing bodies such as NSOs and Bid Committees, vital decisions are being made that significantly impact athletes without them. The athletes actually don’t have any input at all on the decisions that are greatly affecting their lives. Even with athlete representation within the IOC, COC and NSOs at the Board level, I feel that there are problems with their actual effectiveness. When decisions are being voted on in various governing bodies, even with athlete representation, in reality their voice is completely ignored because it comes in the form of one vote or a certain number that wouldn’t be able to challenge the decision anyways. At the IOC level, there are only so many athlete representative members. So how can they really make a difference? I honestly don’t see it and I don’t see how we are making enough change in the system. It is extremely frustrating.

We all have the right to understand how decisions are made and the ability to question our national and Olympic governance. And I think it is important to mention that this type of questioning should not be perceived as something negative, as it generally is. It is usually seen as an attack on the IOC or COC and it is not that at all. Questioning their governance defines their roles and responsibilities. This is the only way you can learn and grow; the only way to improve your Olympic governance is by constantly examining and reforming the system.

I find the Athletes’ Councils created as a branch of the IOC and the COC are an attempt to address the athletes’ perspective on issues that arise. However, many of us question their effectiveness and how much power they actually have.I see now that they are functioning more as just giving constructive criticism back to the Olympic Committee. They are not really able to force change and again make us question if they are really involved in the decision-making process at all.

I believe that athletes need to start to be integrated more heavily into the system, at the national and international level, not as only athlete representatives but as equals. We need to increase their numbers within the IOC and the COC, separate from the Athletes’ Commission, and need them working together as equal members and not as individual athletes sitting in. They should be more highly valued because of the specialized experience and knowledge they have, which is so valuable to our sport system. I think we all need to realize that in a perfect world we would have equal representation from every nation and every sport at the international level, but in reality we’re not even close. Equality is something that we need to strive for. We need to diminish the disparity between the representation from different nations and different sports. I hope to one day see the different Athletes’ Councils, the IOC Council, all the Olympic Committees come together in some way or begin to consistently engage in communication to learn and improve from each other. This would be an opportunity for the national athlete representatives to meet with the IOC Council and distinguish and open the lines of communication, which would drastically improve the sporting community.

A common feeling among some of the athletes is that if you are not within striking distance of an Olympic medal, you don’t matter as much as an athlete that is. With the focus of our sport system moving towards Olympic medal potential, the voice of an athlete struggling for more funding without ranking to back it up, realistically, is lost. And we can see that with regards to our new Own the Podium plan that has begun to be implemented here in Canada. I am not here to speak on my opinion of the program and whether you agree or disagree with the principle, it is an example of why many athletes are now coming running to their athlete representatives and demanding answers for why they’ve lost their federal funding.

I stand by my convictions when I say that our government is holding us back. The insufficient funding, coaching and facilities for a country of our wealth and size is unacceptable. We as a nation do not value sport in the way we should. The President of AthletesCAN Andrew Nisker said it perfectly. Sport is not just sport. It is education, it is crime prevention and it is healthcare. The power of sport is endless. How we perceive amateur sports in Canada needs to change. We need a whole culture shift that places emphasis on sport, not just medals and trophies. I think by educating the public on the remarkable role that sport has and can play in this country, our government might be more willing to make it a priority.


If you want the entire thing it will be published in a few months with all the lecturers from the 2009 Olympic Reform Conference....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


My friend Jarry is an absolutely incredible photographer and asked me to 'model' for him earlier this year. I jumped at the chance to work with him. Check him out at: OR

Here are some of my fave pics from the day, which we shot right on Bloor St one awesome afternoon....

more to come....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good Luck Ohenewa

I am so lucky to have met and become friends with one of the greatest women I have ever known, Ohenewa Akuffo. We have known each other for a few years now and I am still just as much in awe of her as I was the first day I met her. Ohenewa is a Canadian Olympic Wrestler, who I shared my first Olympic Games in Beijing with. Without her I wouldn't have been able to keep so positive and inspired. I can't thank her enough for that...

She sends out little email updates to all her supporters and loved ones and I wanted to share her last one with all of you...


Hello Friends and Family,
I am preparing for another battle. I am heading off to Denmark today (Saturday September 19, 2009) to represent Canada again. Please keep me in your prayers as I am wrestling on Friday September 25, 2009. You can watch matches online and follow results at Thank you for your continued support.

I am strong, I am powerful and I am blessed...
Ohenewa Akuffo


I know it sounds pretty basic and simple, but it's anything but. She takes everything in her life, every obstacle, every challenge as a battle. She puts her whole heart into everything she does and is the definition of a fighting spirit. After finishing 5th at the Beijing Games, which is UNBELIEVABLE and I am beyond proud of her, she wanted more. Ohenewa was looking for a medal and nothing but would satisfy her. I think we all know what that feels like. It doesn't matter what place you get or what mark you receive, in or out of sport, when you set your mind to something and don't get it you're not going to be happy. I totally understand that and live through that almost every day of my life. Nothing is ever good enough, but this is not about me, this is about O. She recovered from knee surgery and put herself in the most incredible state of mind to keep going and push for the London Olympics. I hope she doesn't mind me broadcasting her age, but she is almost 30 years old and is in the best shape of her life. That last line of her email..."I am strong, I am powerful and I am blessed" really sums up her personality for me. She is a force to be reckoned with and I wish I could be more like her.

Good Luck in Denmark O you will be amazing!
much love

Friday, September 18, 2009

Remembering Dr. Gene Sutton

Last weekend I drove up to Hamilton with my family to attend Dr. Gene Sutton's memorial. She was an incredible woman who dedicated so much of her life to sport in this country. I had heard of her for years and years when I was an athlete, but never met her. It was only until I retired and started working on the other side of sport did I finally get my chance to spend some time with her. From the moment we met, she took me under her wing. She was my mentor on the Gymnastics Canada Board and helped me see how I could put my passion to good use in my sport and country. It was very shocking to hear of her sudden passing a few months ago. I was so fortunate to have been in her company for the past year to learn and grow from all her experience and wisdom. I owe my path into Olympic Education to her. She inspired me to apply for the International Olympic Academy and follow in her incredible footsteps. I couldn't have been more honored. She believed in me and I will never forget that. Our sporting community will not be the same without Gene. She touched so many of our lives. Her memorial filled the Convention Center in Hamilton and was a true celebration of her life. I know we have to keep her memory and spirit alive with all we try to accomplish in Canadian sport. Thank you for everything Gene. You are in my thoughts and my heart always.

Athletes' Council

When I got elected on to the Gymnastics Canada Board of Directors as the Athlete Representative, I had no idea what to expect. This was my first time on a Board and I was nervous, but really excited. I finally felt like this was my chance to start something, something bigger than I had imagined. It's a weird thing to feel so young when for so long in my sport I felt so old. I mean for the past few years I've been the 'mom' of the Rhythmic Gymnastics community...literally lol So walking into that first face to face meeting was terrifying. I felt like I was a child, who had no idea what she was doing. After one full day of meetings I gained my confidence and found my place in the boardroom. I did not want to be quiet (that is so not in my personality) so I made sure I spoke up. I really wanted to learn and be a part of what was going on. My fellow board members were so great and welcomed me with warmth and enthusiasm. I am very fortunate to be working among such highly experienced and intelligent people.

One of my first concerns was my actual role on the Board. What is expected from the athlete representative? More importantly, what do I want to do as the new rep? I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just a figurehead because the Board HAD to have an athlete rep. I wanted to make sure I actually used this position to do something. I have to admit once I saw how decisions were made and the very long and slow process it is I knew that I had to act fast.

My first real big proposal to the Board was the creation of a Gymnastics Canada Athletes' Council. It's not possible for me to know absolutely everything that is going on in all four disciplines (Men's Artistic, Women's Artistic, Trampoline and Rhythmic Gymnastics) and I honestly can't say I represent all of these athletes. An Athletes' Council would designate an athlete representative for each discipline that would speak with the athletes on a consistent basis and with me frequently. Therefore, each athlete would have a rep within their own sport to go to that would come to me where I can bring their issues to the Board level, where the decisions are made. It would strengthen communication between the disciplines and encourage athletes to speak up. I can't help our athletes if I don't know what their concerns are. I want to make the relationship between the NSO (National Sport Organization) and their athletes more positive and effective. Our athletes need to know that they can tell us what they like and don't like and what they're entitled to. Most athletes are so unaware of their rights and what is provided for them it's shocking.

At these past National Championships in Hamilton, Ontario I held an info session for all National team members across all disciplines. I wanted to introduce myself as their new rep and what my plans and goals are. I also gave them a crash course in everything that is out there for them, within Gymnastics Canada and organizations like AthletesCAN and the Canadian Olympic Committee. It was long and I talked for a good two hours straight, but it was an initial meeting. I'm hoping to have meetings at each Elite Canada and Nationals for every discipline every year. They will turn into brainstorming sessions for the athletes to meet with their rep and raise their voices.

Right now I am still pushing for an Athletes' Council to be put in place and included in the NSO policy. Everything that is worth it takes time and I am going to see this through. I will keep you all updated on the progress....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Commonwealth Games Canada

This morning I went down to Fuel Advertising to shoot a little promo video for Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC). They are trying to attract some new sponsors and corporate attention to the organization. When they called me and asked if I would be willing to shoot some footage I jumped at the chance. The 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia were one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was such an unbelievable trip and I would do anything for CGC. Not only did I have a career personal best down there, but I found my motivation to keep going for the Olympics. Before then I wasn't sure if there was enough left in me to do it. I was coming off one of the biggest disappoints of my life, missing the 04 Games, and Melbourne was my first real test.

I didn't know what to expect heading down to my first Commonwealth Games, but from the second I stepped off the plane I knew it was going to be a life changing trip. I hate to call it the 'friendly' games because it's just as competitive as others, but the sportsmanship and comradery among the athletes is different. Everyone is supporting each other and cheering them on, even if they're not from their country. I felt the whole village behind me when I headed into my last day of the competition going for the World REcord. That's something that you don't usually get. The athletes were more open to meeting each other and I learned a lot from them. It was kind of like a 'mentoring' session for me you could say. The Commonwealth Games lands just in the middle of the cycle, not too far from the Olympics to not take it seriously, but far enough that you're still learning and improving upon your own potential. These Games are the perfect opportunity to get out there in front of tens of thousands screaming fans and face that kind of pressure. It's a great stepping stone to Pan Ams and the Olympics. I will never forget Melbourne. I was so inspired when I left that I had the best two competitive years of my life after that. I thank everyone involved with those Games, the athletes, the coaches the Mission Staff and volunteers. They made it all it could be for all of us and we are so grateful.

So when I sat down in front of the camera, fully decked in my HBC 06 Commonwealth Gear, I had the biggest grin on my face. I believe that as athletes we can help improve the current financial support we receive from this country. We can't always rely on others to do this for us. I think that when corporations hear a genuine statement directly from an athlete, they feel more of a personal connection. When it comes from the heart how could they say no right? :)

Hopefully, I can help bring in some more support for Commonwealth Games Canada and give more of our athletes a chance to have the opportunity to represent our country at these incredible Games.

Some things never change....

I've never felt better than I do today
I finally see what everyone has wanted me to see for so long
I finally get it

Things may seem like they're different but they never really are
Deep down you're still the same
How is it possible that for one moment you could think that you were that happy?

Today you opened my eyes and I finally took a good look at what I saw
It all sounded so familiar
I'd heard those words before
And to think I thought we could be back there again

I'm laughing now
Some things never change

Thank you for letting me go

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Little Starbucks Perspective

For the past 10 days I have been going through serious roommate withdrawal. My roomie Niki jetted off to Europe for a well deserved and needed vacation (she works like a crazy person), but left me home all alone! I'm usually the one that is hardly there and is always leaving for something, but this is the first time it's completely the opposite and I'm so not a fan. Niki would probably be laughing at this right now, but it's true!

So I was procrastinating earlier and instead of doing something productive I decided to flip through some old pictures. I came across this one above and it reminded me of Niki so much. She is usually a pretty camera happy girl and taking pictures of starbucks cups sounds just like her. So this wasn't surprising when I came across it. Then I actually read the quote and loved it! Who knew Starbucks had some real insight? For those of you who can't read the small print it says:

"Failure's hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you're successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever."

I never thought about success in that way before and it really made sense to me. People go their whole lives doing things just because they're good at them, but are they really happy? For a long time I thought a certain profession and a certain salary would make me happy and provide a certain security that I thought I would need for the future. That couldn't be further from where I am in my life now. I find that I'm nowhere near as materialistic as I was when I was younger and everything I do, I do because I love it. Maybe that will lead me to my dream car or multiple houses all over the world (I can dream ok), but maybe it won't and I'm ok with that. To wake up and want to go to work every day is better than any salary. To have a passion that will ultimately make a difference in the lives of others means more to me than anything money can buy. I would rather fail at trying to do something I am so proud to be a part of than succeed at something I find meaningless and empty.

Thanks for this Niki!
much love

Orlando Has Found Her Niche Here


The athlete face of Toronto's bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games is pretty, yes, but what's more impressive about rhythmic gymnast Alexandra Orlando is the important new career she's carving out for herself.

Last summer, Orlando, 22, clinched the top spot in a list of top 50 sexiest female athletes competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After placing 18th in Beijing, she returned home for her third year of political science at the University of Toronto. With longtime injuries to tend to, Orlando was all too aware that stopping gymnastics training could make for a difficult transition this year.

But to her surprise and relief, Orlando's post-competitive life so far has been, as she put it, "incredible."

"I always knew this was going to be a really hard year of no training," Orlando said. "I loved what I was doing so much, and I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to find things that I loved to fill that void. I really didn't think I would feel this fulfilled and happy after stopping."

Orlando has found a new purpose in sport beyond pushing her body on the gymnastics mat -- a passion for athlete advocacy. At last October's AthletesCan forum, the yearly gathering of national team athlete representatives, Orlando was one of four athletes elected to its board for three years. In June, she's going to the International Olympic Academy in Greece for two weeks. And she's the athlete rep on the 2015 Pan Am bid committee, travelling to Acapulco last November to do the initial bid presentation. She'll also go to Mexico this November for the final bid presentation.

"It has definitely been one of my favourite experiences as an athlete," Orlando said of the bid work. "I just want to make sure that athletes are represented, we're being thought of, and we're making sure the Games are an athlete-centered Games."

Orlando won a record six gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, and three gold at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she was named Canadian flag bearer for the closing ceremony. In a sport dominated by Eastern Europeans, Orlando was the only rhythmic gymnast from North or South America to qualify for Beijing.

These days, her goals are to set up an athlete council for Gymnastics Canada and strengthen communication between athlete reps from different countries and those on the IOC athlete council. The surprise nomination and election by her peers at the AthletesCan forum sparked her journey down this new path -- one she can't see herself abandoning to go back to the athlete life.

"I realize I had blinders on when I was training and had no idea what was going on in other sports," said Orlando. "I just got so pumped up and motivated and I came home [from the forum] and said, 'This is what I want to do, and really take it seriously.' I think this is an area I'm going to stay in for a while."


Friday, September 4, 2009

With A Little Help From My Friends...

After a year of completely neglecting my blog, I think I'm finally ready to start getting back into it again. I have to owe it to Mr. Jason Sealy for giving me a little push in the right direction and I want to thank him for it. I forgot how much I used to love writing. I stopped earlier this year when I was going through a lot of changes in my life that I just didn't understand. For the first time in a long time I was a little lost. The last year before the Olympics I was in so much pain, but I couldn't stop training. I had been working my whole life for that moment and no injury was ever going to stop me from competing. I had to keep pushing my body past its limits, while still being cautious. For me those two things completely contradict each other. Looking back on it now I don't know how I did it. In the end, I was so proud of myself for getting through it in one piece. When I got home I pretty much went from being in the best shape of my life to not being able to do anything active for a long time. It was a hard transition for me and I had my moments where I didn't take it very well. I am so fortunate to have such amazing people in my life to help me through those times. My family was and always is incredible. They put up with me no matter what and I am so grateful. My friends always know how to keep me sane and stop me from stressing. Somehow I'm going to have to find some way to repay all of them.

So once I came to peace with leaving my old life behind and stepping into a new one, I've never looked back. This past year has been a blur for me. I was busier than I ever was as a gymnast and am happier than I have been in a long time. I decided to dedicate this blog to my new life, not as an athlete, but just as me.

Welcome To My Crazy Life...