On Feburary 1st, I had the honour of speaking at the Government of Canada’s Official Launch for Black History Month. This year has been designated the Year of Sport and as such I was asked to speak about the Power of Sport. Obviously this is something I’m passionate and had no problems finding things to talk about. There was a great reception to my speech, so I thought I would share it with all of you
Here is a copy of my speech below:
Who here hasn’t been touched by sport in some way throughout their life? Whether it be actually participating or the excitement of watching from the sidelines? I think you would be hard-pressed to find many people who haven’t had sport influence them in some way.
2015 has been designated the Year of Sport in Canada. At first glance sports may seem like a frivolous pursuit, — simply games. However this line of thinking couldn’t be more wrong. Nelson Mandela said “ Sport has the ability to unite the world in a way that few other things can. So I applaud the government of Canada for recognizing the immense influence sport can have on our country.
In 2012, I had a once in a lifetime experience. I stood at the start line for the 100m Hurdles Olympic final, staring down my lane at 10 barriers, in a stadium packed with 60,000 people from all over the world. I was joined at that start line with 7 other girl from different countries, different cultures, different languages; however we were united in our singular goal to win a medal and in our years of preparation for the moment that we stood in. Sport forms an invisible bond between people and gives us something to relate to, despite our seeming differences. The 100m Hurdler that lives in Japan probably understands my exhaustion after practice, the scrapes on my knees from falling and my burning desire for greatness much better than maybe even my family members. There have been many times after a race that simply making eye contact with a competitor has spoken volumes, without a single word being said.
In its purest sense, sport is about competition. Its about people coming together to bring out the best of themselves. We as human being taint things with our preconceived notions and social constructs. There is no difference in work ethic, hard work and determination. At the core of sport is working towards pushing yourself past your limits and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a universal language. There are few other things that crosses language barriers and exists above cultural norms like sport. Its not just actual athletes that benefit from the lessons that sport can provide. Rather I think it sets a beaming example of what the world could be like if we examined our similarities more than our differences.
International competitions such as the World Cup and the Olympics have a unique way of uniting a whole country, from small town to big city. I couldn’t begin to describe the pride I felt to compete with Canada across my chest, but an even greater feeling was knowing I had the support of a whole country behind me. It gives people an opportunity to come together as a united force. Fans can all relate to the elation of a big win or the gut wrenching pain of a loss.
There is something special about watching athletes compete that is truly inspiring. Athletes are the epitome of dreaming big, having an unwavering belief in self and simply working hard to go after your goals. From a young age, I set the goals of becoming an Olympian. However, I was not the high school superstar but thankfully a coach at the University of Connecticut decided to take a chance on me offering me a full scholarship. While I got faster every year through University, I was far from World Class when I graduated. With aspirations of also attending medical school , a GPA of 3.9 and graduating with summa cum laude honours, everyone encouraged me to hang up my spikes, however in my heart I knew I hadn’t reached my true potential. I decided to follow my dream to become an Olympian. I relocated back to Toronto and committed myself to training full-time. Before that season I set some goals, I wrote that I wanted to run 12.70 and be a finalist at the World Championships. Now, at that time I had a personal best of 13.39, which in the track world is a LONG WAY off from 12.70 and I had never made a Canadian national team, much less be a finalist at a Major International Competition. Needless to say, these were lofty goals. But I worked hard at every practice, I sacrificed, and I believed!
That summer I was selected as 1 of 3 Canadians to compete at the World Championships in South Korea, where I finished as a finalist running 12.73. In 2012, I continued my success, achieving my goal of competing at the Olympics where I finished 6th.
Right now, I literally overcome obstacles for a living, but there were so many other invisible obstacles that I had to overcome to get to where I am now. And I know everyone sitting in here today has there own obstacles to overcome to achieve their goals. There are few other avenues that inspire each and every one of us to pursue the greatness that lies in us.
We can take advantage of the lessons sport has to offer by encouraging our youth to participate. Sport can be used as a tool to get them to places they never imagined. Sport teaches a number of vital life skills that helps create well rounded young people. We often think about the physical benefits it has to offer but there is very much a mental aspect that cannot be overlooked. The focus and discipline that is necessary for success in sport are all transferable into the business world. There is something addicting about success and sport can plant those initial moments of achievement. It helps to open doors that previously may not have been an option. I consider myself immensely blessed to have been given a free education and now I have the opportunity to travel the world doing what I love. Not everyone will become a professional athlete, but sport can set young people on path of success in any avenue they decide to pursue.
So in Conclusion, I would have to say Nelson Mandela couldn’t have been more right. Sport has the power to do things that few other things can.
Sport has a unique way of uniting and bringing people together.
It speaks to everyone in a language they can understand.
It inspires us to greatness
It gives us hope.