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.

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1 Response to I was here

  1. Julie says:

    You are an outstanding athlete and your successes are extremely well deserved. You have set an exemplary example for other athletes (and non-athletes) to follow, in terms of dedication, motivation and hard work. You have made your country, family and friends proud. I am fortunate to have you in my life. Enjoy a well earned rest!! (And let’s get together over the holidays if we can!!)

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