It has only been a little over a year since my Olympic career in Sochi as a speed skater, and my life could not be more different today than it was when I stood on the start line with other Olympic athletes for those races. I am a proud mom to Henry, I work on my career after retirement part-time (mostly from home, so I can be with the little man), and my day-to-day activities are all geared toward taking care of someone else. Although I was lucky that I knew what I wanted to do once I left the amazing world of sports, the challenges that came with transitioning out of an athlete career are something I am not sure one can ever be totally ready for.
Saying that I am a “Communications Contractor” still feels foreign and grown-up. So does saying that I am “retired”. No matter what anyone says, when you spend your child and adult life in an athlete career it consumes you and becomes a major part of your identity. When you stop competing, that all changes. The biggest help to me has been having a set plan in place for after I was done competing; I knew I wanted to finish my degree (a Comms BA at the U of C), I knew that my husband and I wanted to start a family, and I knew that I needed to continue working towards a career after retirement from speed skating. I have always been a type-A personality, so an orderly plan made everything seem within the realm of possibility. So far, things are going great. I still miss skating, but that was going to be the case no matter when I retired. When I feel the longing to be back competing, I look at my career now and am confident that I am on the right track in life. The support of the CSIC and everyone around me has been instrumental in keeping me focused on life’s new challenges, especially on the hard days.
The biggest difficulty that I faced after sport was the overwhelming lack of qualifications that I had when applying for jobs. I have spoken to many other Olympic athletes about this. Everyone in the work world always says “I would hire an Olympian in a second”, or “You have a leg up because you are an Olympian”, but when push comes to shove no one wants to hire a 30-year-old with no career experience and half of a university degree. I knew that I would work my butt off to learn new skills and be a valuable member of a company, but good luck explaining that in a CV. It is a difficult thing to deal with going from being world-class at something to only being qualified to work in a fast food restaurant. Talk about a reality check!
As a result, I started networking with anyone and their dog who were interested in hearing about how hard I wanted to work. I hit what seemed like a million dead ends, but just like in sports, I kept pushing until it paid off. I had to work hard to get a chance in the field that I wanted to be a part of, and I am still working to advance. Last year, while pregnant, I worked part time and completed 18 university classes! It was a very different type of hard work than I was used to, but as athletes know, you just need to keep your head down and stay focused and almost anything becomes possible.