Emily Smith – our amazing journey

Emily Smith retired from power tumbling in November 2014 after her 8th World Championship appearance. Yes, this post is extremely overdue however it took me 2.5 years to fully appreciate what she did for the Canadian tumbling world as well as her contribution to my career, personal development and sport life.

The beginning of something great!

I began coaching Emily in June 2005. While her physique was fantastic, her mental game, confidence and difficulty were sub par to be an international force in the tumbling world. I made it my first priority to prove to her that she belonged with the best and that I should be the one to take her there. Success wasn’t a possibility, it was the only option I opened to her.

Before I became her coach (less that 2 months from the switch), I had to sub-coach her group. Normally when people are substituting they follow a plan, don’t push buttons, and just get through the day. That’s not really my coaching style. I am tough, aggressive and even relentless in my pursuit for achievement until my desired goal is achieved, so I treated the following situation as if it was my personal athlete that was struggling. She hated double layouts, they scared her, she didn’t trust herself. I remember, after watching her tuck them over and over in this training, stepping on the floor and blocking her from taking her turn and saying “I’m not letting you take another turn unless it’s going to be a real double layout. I don’t want to watch anymore shitty attempts. You are waisting my time and your talent. If you are going again, it better be a double layout or don’t bother going at all.” She was crying (not dramatically) because she was scared. Scared of the double layout, scared of not being good enough, scared of screwing up… that turned out to be one of her biggest tools for success. She told me she was doing it. I stepped off the rod floor, yelled something encouraging and she began to run. She did it and it wasn’t just a nice double layout, it was damn near flawless.

I realized that day, that Emily was meant for greatness, she just needed someone to be her confidence until she was ready to have it for herself. I realize now that was the day I earned her undivided and unwavering trust. A trust that would take us through another 9 years of tremendous ups, some shaky downs but most importantly some unforgettable achievements and memories.

Canadian Trendsetter

We had 7 weeks to prepare for a World Cup in Belgium, and roughly 12 weeks till World Championships. I told her she would compete a new personal difficulty record for these events or she wasn’t going. She needed a double layout in the middle of her pass to be competitive and I needed to prove that I could handle the new coaching position I had taken. Yes, I was selfish but I also believed in her.  We prepared the passes in our gym through tears, pain, fails, falls and fatigue. At the event, she had a solid day 1 and placed herself into the 8 woman final; a normal outcome for her. However for the first time, she had medal potential. In warm up for finals, she lost herself and took a spill on the mat. It scared her, it scared me and due to federation rules, I wasn’t even on the competition floor to help, I was watching from the stands. After several minutes of the national team staff trying to change her mind frame and calm her down, they sent her to me. I remember the look in her eyes, a look of embarrassment, fear and of feeling lost. I gave her the pep talk of a life time (something I started to become known for). Remember, we had a relationship built on trust. Through my talk, I saw her expression change, I saw the fighter coming back into her body and mind, and I saw the fear fade. She left me and less than an hour later, after competing a new personal difficulty record, she became the first Canadian tumbler to ever medal on the World Cup circuit; a well deserved and incredibly meaningful bronze. Of all her medals with me, this was my 3rd favourite.

Let the success pour in!

2006 through to spring 2009 saw a lot of excitement. Emily won 3 consecutive senior national titles, made finals in every World Cup she attended and earned a few more Bronze medals including one at the World Cup in Quebec which was really special due to it being in our home country.  In 2007, she competed in her first World Team Final where she led the team to 4th! She set a new Canadian difficulty record by becoming the first to compete two full twisting double backs in one pass and cemented herself as the Queen of Canadian tumbling.

 

In 2009, she placed 4th in a World Cup in Poland but the highlight was prelims where she finished 1st heading into the medal round. She had never been higher than 4th after day 1 and never had a Canadian been leading the field at a World Cup in tumbling. She had beaten Olena Chabonenko on that day which to us was INSANE because she was the 3-time World Champion, the World Games Champion and easily one of the sports LEGENDS! Pressure got to her, she held back on a pass and she was very disappointed with 4th but man was it ever cool that she at one point had been 1st. In the big picture, this was HUGE and it was a moment she would learn from and be inspired by less than 2 months later.

Let the games begin, The World Games!

The World Games are a multi sport competition held every 4 years, the year following the Olympics. It is considered the Olympics for non-Olympic sports. Emily attended the event in 2005, before I was her coach and placed 7th.

In 2009, she approached the event with a very different mindset, she was going after a medal. A huge goal considering no Canadian tumbler had ever earned that before her. The competition was held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and the venue sat about 5000 spectators. It was by far the biggest competition Emily had ever attended. I’m not sure she had even dreamed of this. It was out of this world spectacular for her. She came in as a medal contender but I wouldn’t say a favourite. 2009 had been rough for her. She was exhausted! 3.5 years of constant training and international events had beaten her up, she had unfortunately lost her national title and because of this, we had lowered her planned difficulty for the season. Physically, she was stunning! Mentally, she was done…

The preliminary round was ok. She was 5th, she had hit but the passes weren’t stellar and she was looking very cautious. I think she was feeling the pressure of wanting a medal and it caused uncharacteristic faults in her lines. I also think it was a blessing in disguise for her. There was no medal pressure now, now she was chasing. In the fresh start final, she nailed her first line and set herself up for a strong performance. Sitting 4th after one pass, she went aggressive on pass 2 and unlike Poland a few months prior, she committed to herself, her full difficulty and crushed her pass. She would definitely place higher than in 2005. With 4 people remaining she had the lead. The next girl went, Emily was still winning. Time for the top 3 after pass 1 to go. The woman sitting in 3rd went and nailed her line. We thought it was amazing, our medal excitement died because we assumed her lead would be insurmountable. When her total flashed, she was rated 2nd and a few tenths back from Emily, which meant the dream had become real and she wasn’t leaving that arena without a medal. The Russians didn’t disappoint and they maintained their top 2 podium finish. Emily was once again 3rd but this time it was on the biggest stage of our sport, and it was another first for Canadian tumbling. She looked perfect on that podium. She belonged on that podium. Seeing our flag rise above her and seeing her smile was just… I can’t even put words to it.  It was official now, no one would ever top this career.

 

This was my 2nd favourite medal of her career.

A few months later at World Championships, she and her teammates placed 3rd earning the first Canadian team medal since 1996. This meant Emily now had a medal from every major competition in the tumbling World! She fell in that individual final though and finished 5th. Landing would have guaranteed her bronze and a personal best performance at Worlds.

Following that meet, Emily chose to retire from the sport she had taken by storm. She felt satisfied, she felt ready to move on, I think in reality she felt burnt out. With amazing highs, comes incredibly deep lows and she needed to step away in order to realize she needed to be back.

It only lasted 6 months…

She came back, more determined than ever and with a new goal. To have a personal best at World Championships. I tested her commitment. She had to do 2 months of just basics and conditioning 5 days a week. After that we introduced skills and then we entered the competition world. She won the final world trials for Canada that year and she looked better than ever physically. She looked rested, inspired and strong!

Less than a year after her failure at World finals, she placed 3rd at the final World Cup of the season in Portugal. Her confidence was back. Her fire was back. She was back.

 

She made finals again at the 2010 World Championships and placed 8th with an error. UGH still not the feeling she wanted! An amazing comeback when you consider she had taken 6 months off and only started training 8 months prior; still not the desired end result.

In 2011, her personal life came crashing down on her and she turned to sport for healing.    I remember days in the gym alone with her where she would have the best turn of her life, and then just cry. I’m sorry Emily, don’t hate me for telling people this, it’s important they realize that you found strength in the lowest points and that you grew stronger through defeat. In my mind, it defines you just as much as your infectious laugh, your breath taking appearance and your list of accomplishments.

She trained for Birmingham World Championships with more guts than I’d ever seen from her. She was a woman with nothing to lose. Her fear of failing was non-existent, her fear of hard skills had disappeared. She needed to be great. She needed to belong. She needed to find herself again and the rod floor was where she was doing that.

It was the most inspiring character building moment I’ve ever witnessed. I again had to be her confidence, I again, was the one she trusted and I took that responsibility with extreme care and extreme privilege. She needed “us”, that relationship to be perfect, unbreakable, and I hope she realizes it always will be.

Her worlds were perfect by the way! I remember watching her compete her last pass in finals, a pass she was unveiling at that competition and her killing it. I looked at the person next to me and said “Now she can retire. Now she can be satisfied.”

She wasn’t, haha, well I mean she was but she had renewed her love for the sport and she set her sights on World Games 2013 in Columbia as her next athletic venture. She also left that Worlds with a twinkle in her eye for a certain young man :p and luckily for her, he had a twinkle in his eye that matched.

The Final Partnership that inspired the final great performance

Jon and Emily were explosive together in the gym. I feel insanely lucky that they graced my coaching career and even more so that they did it a the same time. They created a culture of greatness within their group. Everyday was exciting, everyday had new moments to cheer for, to inspire and to look forward to.

They both qualified for Cali, Columbia 2013 and it really was a great preparation. Emily was different this time though. She was 26, her body was tired and she had to train smart. Rather than difficulty, we trained execution (new rules encouraged it) and her key skills were still valuable which was a bonus for us.

World Games #3! That is crazy! Emily had now spent a decade in the top 10 of international tumbling rankings. Very few men or women can say that and very few had attended 2 or more impressively 3 World Games. This meet was FUN! It was like icing on a career or greatness. There was no result that could be considered a disappointment in my opinion. I say that because she was so happy with her life, all aspects of it, that she was tumbling for herself and with pure passion for sport. Nothing to prove, nothing to lose, just love for what she was doing.

The crowd was so LOUD! The stadium was sold out with nearly 10,000 spectators. This was the biggest venue she’d ever been in, and yet, she embraced it rather than being passed by it. She talked about how cool it was and how energizing the environment felt! In competition, Emily did what she always did. She had a steady but not spectacular prelims which put her in a good position heading into finals. In finals, she delivered a solid first line and while standing for her 2nd, we knew that as long as she landed, a medal was guaranteed. What a different feeling than 4 years prior. What a different woman from 4 years prior. You don’t know pressure till you’ve stood waiting for judges knowing that your ‘normal’ will mean mission accomplished. It is mentally so much more difficult than chasing and just swinging away!  She had a different attitude this time. It was calm, it was quiet, it was real confidence. She hit… I knew she would hit. Another Bronze, an amazing bronze.

I did my research. I found out that only 2 women have ever medaled twice at World Games for tumbling. Emily is one them.

994255_10153071192965570_1923604079_n

When I saw her on the podium, I no longer felt like she needed me to be her confidence. She was 100% behind herself, 100% sure of herself and more proud than she had ever been. In a way she had slayed Goliath. She had taken what seemed like an insurmountable moment in life, stood up to it and proved it hadn’t and would’t ever get the best of her. She chose to be successful, she chose to be strong, and she chose to be happy.

This was my absolute favourite medal because it was definitely the hardest one mentally to get to.

She continued until Worlds 2014 when she decided to call it, once and for all. The last 18 months were just fun. Yes she still worked hard but mostly she just played the sport and loved the ride. She laughed more and she stressed less. I finally saw her look satisfied. The last pass I watched was brilliant. It didn’t come with a medal and I really didn’t care. I don’t think she did either. It was just yet another beautifully hit pass from a stunning athlete.

Remember Her

I just wrote out a series of athletic performance stories most of which you didn’t know and with back stories that no one, except myself and Emily knew, went through and accepted. But those achievements aren’t her legacy, they are just a part.

Judges will remember her physical presence, her lines, her power and the proud smile she gave them when she landed.

Athletes from around the world will remember her laugh, her willingness to always enjoy the events and her ever present smile. Her ability to cheer them on even when they were rivals and her ability to create a supportive atmosphere within a group even at the most high pressure events.

Coaches will remember her tumbling, her humble attitude to her accomplishments and of course her longevity in the sport.

I will remember her as a the face that helped brighten my day, everyday for 9 years.  She had grit, determination, dedication, passion and an abundance of energy. I grew up as a coach because of this girl. I found my potential and vulnerabilities because of this girl. Most importantly, I got a lifetime of amazing memories and experiences because of this girl.

Emily’s sport accomplishments include:

2-time World Games medalist
3-time World Championship finalist
World Team medalist
7-time World Cup medalist
Canadian Difficulty Record holder

I am so thankful I got to play an active part in such an illustrious career. She will always be irreplaceable to me. She will always be a star to me. Her ability to face a challenge head on, while smiling and laughing will continue to inspire me.

You were the best kid. I will miss our criss crossing high five RAWR forever. I will have dreams of your tumbling forever, and I will tell our stories to my future athletes until the day I retire. You were the ONE! You will forever my ONE.

Love Den XO

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just live with it?

Everyday in life you have to make choices about your present that influences your future in both minor and major ways. Sometimes the path is a clear and obvious one where as other times you are trying to see through fog to determine the best way.  Neither decision is more valuable as often the biggest changes in our lives stem from small ones we didn’t even realize we made.

So about those hard ones… can they be reversed? Can you admit fault and reverse to change the path. Is everything final? Do certain options have expiration dates that you may just have to live with and let go of.  Or can grit, passion and resolve overcome it?

My youth led to some poor grown up sized decisions. Choices I made on a whim, without full information, without due processing and out of fear. 

I played cautiously in life out of fear of failure, fear of the unknown and fear of judgement.

I still picture it, picture him, picture life. 

I still dream…

Den XO

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Would it feel better?

If you are in your 30’s and still single, you have probably built up a fair share of wins and losses in both the love and lust departments. Are you lonely yet? With my 32nd birthday quickly approaching, I’m not exaggerating when I say it pains me not to have a man in my life who loves me to celebrate and be with.

Sometimes the loneliness is palpable .

I try not to complain. Friends and colleagues express how great my life is to me on a regular basis, some even claiming jealousy. And I don’t disagree, I do have one amazing life. I’m in my dream job, travel regularly, have a substantial amount of success in my career as well as in my past sport life and I actually have the greatest friends and family on the planet but at the end of the day, I come home to an empty condo. No one to welcome me, no one to embrace me and no one who makes my face light up when I see them. I hate myself a little bit for saying this but it hurts not to have a man!in my life.

I discussed this at great lengths with a friend recently and they talked a lot about timing. About how we could find someone we love and it simply couldn’t work not due to lack of feelings, desire or compability but rather due to time. That life was pulling in other directions which made building something impossible. 

I find myself wishing lately that I hadn’t prioritized my sporting career for as long as I did. I mean I spent 20-25 hrs a week for just about 2 decades training. It left next to no time or energy for that matter for a social life. What if I had spent more weekends out with friends, or in social leagues or university instead of in the gym. Would that have affected my “timing”?

Being single isn’t all bad. It allows for a lot of freedom in my work and creates the opportunity for impulsive decisions which often bring great adventure. But I fear becoming hopeless and numb to love.

The last few failed attempts at a relationship have left me feeling next to nothing. I’ve just shrugged them off almost as if it’s just what I expected. Like this is just how it’s meant to be for me. 

I don’t want attention for this. I don’t want to be told “he’s out there”, “you’ll meet him”, “you are a total catch”… The truth is people end up alone all the time and I know that it’s a possibility. I know that it’s just mankind’s way of trying to be encouraging and supportive but I hate it because it’s not true. Not everyone finds their soulmate, not everyone gets to live happily ever after and that’s life. 

I don’t understand how having pretty much everything can still feel like you have nothing. I’m starting to be afraid that if someone kissed me where it’s sore, would it feel better? Would I feel anything at all? 

Den XO

Posted in Boys Boys Boys, Self Esteem | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The complete elite athlete

I spent 15 years of my life as a high performance athlete and the last decade as a high performance coach. In that time I’ve come to know and observe many of my sports finest athletes as well as the rest. Out of all the high performance competitors I’ve come to know, I’d say only 10% are complete elite athletes, willing to do what it takes to achieve at the sports highest levels (dream kids) About 20% are lesser talented however insanely hard working (coaches love them) and the remaining 70% are talented athletes who think showing up and having certain skills qualifies them as top athletes (my least favorite).

The complete elite athletes are elite minded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. From meal selection, to minimal social calendars, to training on holidays and of course committed rest/recovery cycles, these people arrange their life around their athletic goals. 

There is a large sense of entitlement these days in our society. Many people think that just because they show up, they deserve equal compensation to others regardless of their performance, commitment and professionalism. I see this in too many elite athletes. Just because we commit to spending 10-20 hours in a gym doesn’t mean you are training like those Olympians and World finalists.

Being a top elite athlete requires many sacrifices, life choices and an accountable mentality. If you can’t do that or as a coach can’t get your athletes to, chances are as a team, you will always fall short of the top.

_________________________

1- Your fitness needs to match your level of talent. Sport is about maximizing the body and minds potential. In order to do so, you need to have the right fitness for your sport. In gymnastics sports, being flexible, having power and speed and also being light are huge factors to success. The more fit you are the more training you can handle and the more control you have over your muscles. Talented unfit athletes can do skills, but they can’t do them as high or as clean as a more fit equal, they are at a disadvantage. When athletes are failing, I don’t think enough of them ask themselves “am I strong enough for this skill?”. I think if they did a lot of them would realize the answer is no.

As an athlete, I knew that I was only capable of certain skills at peak fitness so if my skills were inconsistent or lacking technical precision I increased the time spent on fitness not just my time spent attempting drills and skills. 

2- Food and Weight matter. The most controversial topic in judged sport that I believe too many coaches ignore.

Who doesn’t love pizza right? Well your ankles don’t like it when you land on your face and you’re carrying the extra weight from that poor food choice. Gymnastics is a high impact sport. Your joints take a pounding even when you don’t feel a jar or a jolt. Controlling your weight and your diet helps you keep your body healthy and your training more consistent. If you have a fluctuating diet and weight, you spend each day trying to sort out which body you’re working with. You spend more time trying to adapt than actually growing in sport.

I knew my ideal weight for off season and competition season. Since you can’t maintain peak shape year round and avoid burnout, I spent the training months at about 157lbs and around 6-8 weeks from competition season I’d lean myself out to 153lbs. I was the quickest, sharpest and cleanest version of myself at that weight. Did I make technical errors at that weight? Of course, I’m not perfect but I certainly looked the part of the top level athlete and had the energy/stamina for week long competitions and physically intense training. 

I’m not saying you can’t treat yourself from time to time, however if you think your daily Starbucks fraps and lattes are enhancing your performance you are dead wrong. You want that drink and success? Add 20 minutes of running to burn that off.

3- Being in the gym doesn’t mean you’re training. “I train blah blah hours a day” yeah but are you sitting on your butt taking turns every 5 minutes because you’re too busy socializing? SHUT UP! Hours spent in the gym mean absolutely nothing if you have a poor training rhythm and super low intensity. 

I trained less gymnastics hours than most of the people I fought against to make the national team but my training was anything but slow. A turn every 90 seconds with no sitting allowed between them and only quality turns that counted towards daily plan completion. Do 3 of each pass didn’t mean face plant or ass drop 3, it meant do 3 properly. Poor quality isn’t an acceptable standard to the athletes who are leading in any sport.

I also spent 50-75% of my training time doing fitness. The percentage got higher as I got older and my body could handle limited impact. Again, a strong body is capable of more and is an asset. Whether I was sick, sore, tired or just off, Goodlife Fitness was still part of my daily routine, even on days where gym wasn’t part of my schedule. 

4- The selection procedure isn’t the reason you didn’t make it. You failed. It’s not because someone is biased or because the procedure was against you. Sometimes we just aren’t good enough and there is nothing wrong with that. Stop blaming every other factor and person involved in the process. Look at yourself and figure out what you need to change.

Also related to this is your attitude. No one wants to cheer for the kid throwing the pity party so change your face and your attitude if you want support from your sport community.

_________________________

We all have different goals and reasons for participating in competitive sport and that’s important because not every athlete wants to be or is meant to be an elite level athlete. All I ask from my gymnast (and used to from myself) is that their goals and commitment level match. 

You want to be elite? Then don’t half ass it. Give yourself reasons to be successful rather than trying to place blame as to why you aren’t. Get your butt in the gym and work harder that you did the day prior and raise your expectations of yourself for your day to day life choices. 

Earning national and international medals isn’t easy. That’s why only three people get to and if you aren’t 100% into your training, chances are you aren’t one of them.

Den XO

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I was here

Athlete. The word that has defined me for almost 30 years. That word means so much more to me than hours in a gym or medals. It describes a person with an unsationable appetite for success, a hunger that comes from a place so deep, it can be used to overcome just about everything. Failure, disappointment, injury and now more than ever, transitioning. 

A person who is capable of sacrificing everything for their one goal and who has the discipline to stray away from the sweet temptations life has to offer. A person who’s drive is unmeasurable and who’s passion can not only be seen but more importantly it can be felt through their actions, their words and their reactions. 

You see I’ve always wanted to be the star! One of the greats that etched himself in sports history and that people would talk about for years to come. My goal was to inspire, to mentor and most of all to be seen as unstoppable and placed on a pedlestel. I wanted to be a legend.

I took part in my 1st gymnastics lesson when I was 3. It was fun! There was a certain rush that I felt even at that young age when I tried something new and was successful with it. It was addicting and I wanted to GET IT! I wanted to show off to the coaches, other kids and parents. I wanted to be the best. I remember thinking that.

By age 14, I was a National Champion with absolutely no thought of stopping. I loved being the best and now I was the best on a bigger platform, a level I had only dreamed about because no one in my city had done it before me. When you don’t have examples of excellence in your face everyday, you have to rely on your dreams to raise your game. You have to let yourself fully trust your talent, your potential and develop your own winning strategy. I was happy however I know wanted more, I wanted the biggest stage of them all. 

2001 – World Championships – Odense, Denmark – At 16 I got my first taste of the world scene and it was inspiring yet defeating at the same time. I had the meet of my life (to that point) and came 11th… 11th? I don’t deal well with 11th. So at 18 I made the decision to commit my early adult  life to international success. I move 5 hrs south to train with a group of athletes who hoped for the same success as me.

A year later, I stood on top of the World Championship podium for the first of 3 times with my team. We would do it again 2 years later and not again till 6 years after that. The feeling of pride, satisfaction and confidence was overwhelming and it left me wanting to stand on top of that podium again but on my own this time. To show I didn’t need a team to up there.

In 2005 it nearly happened and on a stage that’s magnitude I didn’t really understand till about 5 years later. I went to World Games, the Olympics of non-Olympics sports with 3 new routines and a naive mind. I just wanted to rise to the occasion and maybe medal. I remember getting so caught in the size of the event, the different sports, the athlete village, that the competition seemed to just be a formality for me. I don’t even remember being nervous. I placed 2nd by 0.4 pts. I was so excited. It was medal on the biggest stage of my sport. I didn’t realize till 5 years later that I was the first Canadian male to stand on that stage, and till this day, the only.

I returned home to see an Internet posting with my name as the current World Record holder for highest difficulty in 1 pass, over a 4 pass total and highest score on a pass. WHAT?! Is life real?

Success kept coming in future year in various ways. I competed two World original skills which I quickly became known for. Pushing boundaries, creating new trends, that was a whole new excitement for me. Unlike medals, it created a reputation, created buzz and gave me recognition for creativity.

In 2007 I got to stand on the silver medal stand once again on my own, this time at World Championships and in my own country none the less. A new level of personal pride and satisfaction was established. Now 23, I was capable of comprehending and feeling the pressure of delivering. The high of the medal was too much and quickly thereafter I crashed. I was too tired and too drained to press forward and people supported that because I had already had my share of success. I said goodbye… I should have said see you later. 

2.5 years later, my inner hunger started to rumble. After watching some less than spectacular performances from the new crop, I knew they needed leadership, they needed guidance, I truly felt they needed me and my body/mind were up for the challenge. We charged back onto the scene to win the World title, our first medal of any color since my 2007 finish. It felt magical. I helped the team get back into the worlds elite. Mission accomplished.. Or so I thought.

That same event I placed 5th individually and for the first time in my life I was left feeling unsatisfitied and disappointed. 5th could have been 2nd had I stayed on the landing area. 5th could have been GOLD had I landed in the box. 5th was failure to me and I was devastated for not having had done my best in the most important game. I wanted redemption, I wanted to land and feel satisfaction. I wanted to be World and World Games Champion.

So I spent 2012 and 2013 working harder than I thought I was capable of. I upgraded everything in and out of the gym. Started two a day workouts, became gluten and dairy free, and lightened my social calendar. It was exhausting. I was addicted again like when I was a kid. I found myself back the World Games however this time, 8 years later, it wasn’t for fun but rather for the win.

Day 1 found me in 1st place, a spot I was very very pleased to be in. Disaster struck on day 2 and I fell on a oass I had done successfully for the first time almost a decade earlier. The week prior I had earned a score at a domestic event that would have earned me GOLD! I felt like I died a bit that day. I went to the back gym and cried of disappointment. I couldn’t shake the inner pain, the sadness and the fatigue that came from it. How could it go so wrong. I failed. 

By the time World Champiohips rolled around 3 months later, I was so mentally drained, I barely made top 1/2, maybe 17th? I honestly don’t care to remember. My only memory from that day was sitting in the stands, face in palms, realizing that I would never be World Champion. Our team came 2nd and I don’t even know where that medal is. Never going to be World Champion…
Sport felt over for me. I no longer wanted the stress, the pressure or the expectation of being the best. I was done again… I took the year off of major events to decide how I truly felt about competing. It took me 15 months to decide I wanted to give it once last kick.

I just wanted  to feel satisfied, to feel like I had done everything I could to be successful. My definition of success had changed without me even realizing. I wasn’t seeking a medal, I was seeking a feeling. This was new to me and took some adjustments.

November 2015 – World Championships – Odense, Denmark – Back to where it all started 🙂 I know, how poetic! The city that opened my eyes to my sporting potential would now be responsible for my final curtain call. It was hard! People who tell you it only gets harder as you get older aren’t trying to scare you, they are trying to prepare you. I was exhausted physically but never had I been more in tune with myself mentally.

Day 1 had me in 4 place and with a team silver medal, one I really treasured. Time to shift focus to day 2, the defining day, the one I’d grown to fear. I woke up so incredibly tired and yet more determined than I ever. I was seizing this day, no doubt in my mind.

Warm up was crap yet I wasn’t rattled, a new confidence had emerged. History was made twice by other competitors before I stepped up to the runway, the first quintuple twisting dbl back and then the new world difficulty record, yet I remained calm. I saluted the judges, looked at feet and said “go! go hard and just push, don’t be scared, don’t hold back, just run hard and GO!”

When I landed, I felt it… SATISFACTION! I’ve never been happier with a performance. And I was 6th, happily 6th. So I kissed the trampoline to say goodbye and more importantly to the sport to say thank you for helping me develop into the person I am proud to be today.

1 World Games medal, 6 World Championship medals, 11 National titles, 2 unique skills and a 14 year international career! 

Dear Athlete, 

I was here, I did and I’ve done everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be. I just want you to know that I gave my all, did my best, brought myself some happiness. Left this sport a little better because I was here.

 I leave this world with no regrets and left plenty to remember so they won’t forget. I left my mark so everyone would know I was here.

I won’t be saluting a judge ever again however I’ll never be gone.

Den XO

Ps. Thank you Beyonce for “I was here” the song that inspired my goals and visions for athletic greatness.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In your wildest dreams

Fantasies… We all have them 🙂

I’ve fantasized about my future husband, home and lifestyle for about 15 years now. The vision hasn’t always been the same, it’s been evolving throughout my adult life based on relationship experiences or should I say failed experiences. Here is where I am now.

The man. He is intelligent, has a genuine kindness to his face and a laugh that can’t help but bring a smile to my face. He is successful and incredibly hardworking. That passion has made him wealthy enough to afford some luxuries but he doesn’t flaunt it, he doesn’t need to. He loves my passion for work, my never ending love for sport and the discipline I have to maintain my physique and be successful in my own world. He is taller than me and bursting with charm. His “je ne sait quoi” can only be identified by me and classified into one word, he has: Class.

The home. Stunningly decoraded and finished with the finer touches of everything. In a downtown area where everything is accessible but so well furnished that all you want to do is be home on the couch with him or in the kitchen trying (probably failing) to create a masterpiece meal, or entertaining a group of your closest friends because the rooms are just too inviting to not share them with the best people in your life. The bed is only a queen because although it’s great to sprawl, you don’t want a space so big he can get too far away from you. The only word to describe it is: Classy. 

The lifestyle. Dinner at a lush and fancy restaurant that everyone in town is dying to get into and he just makes a call and it happens because it’s your “place”. You don’t have vacations, you have adventures! Crazy trips to places around the globe where the excitement is in trying new things and feeling adrenaline. You never vacation the same place twice. The surprises 🙂 random flowers delivered to you at work or love letters not because of an occasion but just cause you feel like doing it. Weekend getaways to Paris where you share banana & Nutella crepes by the Eiffel Tower at the carousel on the south side of the river of course, all because he just wanted to surprise you with an amazing date. Chivalry at its finest and only class.

The relationship. Cute text messages at random points throughout the day to put a random smile on your face. Hell, you probably smile when you see his name pop up in your phone before even having read the message. You want to spend your life with him but you feel comfortable and confident enough in the relationship that you don’t need to message from morning till night. You prefer to live your day and just talk about it later over dinner. You both are busy following your passions and although it means you don’t get as much together time as you wish for, you have too much mutual respect for each other’s ambitions to let it become an issue. You treasure the time you spend together and appreciate it more because of the one you spend apart. Love at its finest.

It’s as though your life is fairytale that only exists in a book or on Disney movies. You are Aurora and he is Prince Phillip and you walked with him once upon a dream.

Yeah, I realize it’s an extremely detailed fantasy but I like to believe that sometimes fairy tales come true and sometimes people do live happy ever after…

Den XO

Posted in Boys Boys Boys | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Never Alone

As my birthday went on, I realized I was surrounded by an overwhelming amount of love, support and well wishes from family and friends around the world.  Over 150 fb messages, countless texts, cute snap chats and Instagram posts, I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me slightly emotional but in a good way.

As a single, now 31 year old man, it is very easy to feel lonely and alone at night. No one to share your daily activities with, no one to eat dinner with or lay around quietly watching tv. Naturally you also miss the idea of the passion two people in a relationship share and the intimacy however I think the idea of them just being there is the part that I miss most.

I am genuinely envious of my “taken” friends. They are so lucky to have someone to call their own, someone who smiles the minute they see them, someone who hugs them in a meaningful way and someone who would do anything to ensure their happiness. They get to have someone to share a life with and I thinks that the greatest feeling one can have.

Well last night, I didn’t feel alone. I couldn’t believe how many people reached out to me. And more than that, how many sincere heartwarming messages I received from my heated of friends. 

I got to spend my day laughing hysterically with my best friend Sarah! It’s almost pathetic how hard we laugh at each other’s comments and jokes. I don’t even think other people find us funny.  There’s no judgement with her, I am fully accepted,  flaws and all which is refreshing because I can just BE!

Or the phone call I got from Nick, the man I credit for bringing me back to life a few years ago when I was at my lowest. It was so nice to receive a phone call! It felt like 1999 again when people didn’t text or Facebook each other. There was a purity to that call, to that effort.

I got to shoot the shit with Mike and Chris and Teresa. Just play catch up and laugh at nonsense and talk about how bright the future looks. I also got to be toasted by my favorite restaurant staff which to be honest feels more like friends than anything else. Those bonds, those conversations, those moments are very real to me.

My friend Vincent made me cry! Even all the way from Florida, that amazing soul manages to reach out to me and make me smile. He reminds me how grand a person can become. Then there’s my athletes Matt, Sydney, and Emily who expressed my impact on their life for the world to see. It was so touching to read their words, to know that played a part I shaping those beautiful people. You too Kyle 😉

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget my fam jam! My amazing parents that have unconditional love and support and to whom I can do no wrong, even when I make life choices they can’t wrap their heads around. My sisters who don’t hide their feelings about lookin up to me despite being the youngest. My godmother who just connects with me deeper than most aunts can with their nephews and my grams who at 83(?) still sends me a card with money and kind words. I cry everytime I get one and smile everytime I look at her cookie jar. 

I can’t forget the best friend I’ve had my whole life! I don’t get to see her or speak to her nearly as much as I should but I always feel connected, you can’t shake what we have and seeing her message pop up reminds me of every amazing moment our childhood had. We will be like this till the day we die. She may not be blood but I sure feel like we are. I love you Nat.

And my soulmate Thiago, all the way in Brazil sent me a message that shook me to my core. Ever have someone you’ve known for so little time see right through you and just know you? It is a sensation beyond what can be expressed with words. Our bond is one that cannot be compared to anything else I know. His voice lifts me up no matter how low I am. His belief in me helps erase any doubts I may have for myself. And his genuine love reassures me that I will get everything I deserve in life. He made what was already a great day feel unbeatable. I think he is my guardian angel.

So I came home to my cats, no sexy man to light up when I opened the door, no one to kiss me goodnight but I certainly didn’t feel alone. I was wrapped head to toe in love… And well that is just fabulous!

Den XO

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment