By Ben Rutledge
The anthem plays, the flag is raised – it is that moment – the one inspired to live every hour of every day of training – year after year. There I stood with my eight teammates savoring the thrill of Olympic victory, knowing that, in that moment, I, together with my eight teammates, now were considered the best at what we do. The hopes of our nation sealed in gold as each one of us waved at the crowd gathered in Beijing’s hot summer sun. It was a humbling feeling for me. Our team had moved past our crushing fifth place defeat at the 2004 Athens Olympics; yet we kept on believing for four more years that we could do it – and we did.
Yes it was wonderful to have the spotlight on us – it felt so good to feel proud of all our hard work. Still, it was surprising to me how quickly that feeling was taken over by one thought – now what? Should I leave the sport at the top of my game, should I push myself hard for another four years for another shot at gold – am I being greedy wanting more than one Olympic gold medal? Why haven’t I thought this through?
That’s when I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Doug Brockway. Doug helped me to better understand all the different qualities and skills, all the support systems, all the challenges, and the opportunities that it took in order for me to have achieved my gold medal. It was much more than that one moment – it was eight years of moments; Doug helped me to gather them all together so that I could see all the skills and choices I did have to draw on as I began my journey after the gold.
Doug didn’t tell me what I should be doing; he helped me to find my own answers. I really felt that he honestly wanted me to see how much more I could be. We worked together for about eight months – you know, it didn’t feel long – it felt necessary. I had been in a strict routine for the past eight years which meant I had to really stretch my thinking to see my life from a new perspective.
I started my new journey by becoming a public speaker. That was definitely something that scared me. Sure, I had been in the public eye as an Olympic athlete, but it is quite another to get up and think that I had anything important to say to other people. Doug invited me to see that each of us is always evolving – we are never “there”; by accepting my life and myself as ever-changing, I could freely choose to engage in different activities – to be more of who I might not think I am.
I am proud to be working as a rowing coach at the University of British Columbia, to be giving back to my community and to the environment through my work with Clean Air Champions, as well to be giving my time to help promote Right to Play, and enjoying the process of building up a real estate holding company; and still believing I can go for gold in 2012. Doug has helped me to create a balanced lifestyle in which I can achieve both the big and small goals that I set. I learned from my public speaking that I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone; in fact, every day I try to do at least one thing that scares me.
Congratulations to each of the athletes competing in Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics! You know what it takes to be great – every choice – every action – your belief in yourself has got you here – and it is what you take with you – that knowledge is and always will be golden –so make a plan and shine on!
– Ben Rutledge