Self-doubt and uncertainty are natural – even Olympic athletes are not immune.
Not even Canada’s only gold medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games can avoid those feelings. Trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan, the reigning Olympic champion, candidly told students at St. Luigi Catholic School how she struggled to overcome challenges on the road to becoming the best in her sport.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, no matter how many times you fall, get back up and don’t let it defeat you,” MacLennan told kids in kindergarten to Grade 8 during a special assembly at the school Wednesday, Jan. 30.
MacLennan, a University of Toronto student who is pursuing a Master’s Degree in exercise sciences, is an honorary mentor for Kids Now, a national youth charity that provides free after school group mentoring programs to students in grades 7 and 8, empowering them to believe in themselves while making positive choices that will help them reach their full potential. The Kids Now program is offered at St. Luigi’s.
“When I was your age, I wasn’t very popular. I was uncertain of who I was and how I fit in,” MacLennan told her audience, adding that she was part of a gifted class at school and was labelled a “giftie.” “What matters more than labels is how you think of yourself.”
MacLennan, 24, revealed she did dream of becoming an Olympian and would be captivated by the athletes as she watched them on TV.
“You can see the pain, the determination in the athletes’ eyes,” she said. “I wanted to be them – even before I knew what sport I’d do.”
MacLennan asked St. Luigi students if they had a dream, if they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“A teacher? A doctor? An athlete? You really need to hold onto that dream. Holding onto that dream will get you through challenging situations,’ she said.
Even standing up on the stage, behind the podium, the ever-composed MacLennan admitted to feeling nervous.
“In those moments of fear, my dream got me through,” she revealed.
Even before she was an Olympian, MacLennan said she was afraid to fail. She admitted she suffered a “bad patch” as she trained for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, and had difficulty wading through her feelings of self-doubt. She credits her trainer for pulling her out of the depths of despair.
“He saw that I was so afraid of failing that I was giving up before even trying,” MacLennan said. “After that, I was so mad at myself because I was letting fear get in my way. Living in the moment is most important. I focus on what I love. I love to jump. Jumping is what I do, it’s what I live for.”
Members of the voluntary Kids Now program at St. Luigi’s, Keann, Filipe and Busayo, asked MacLennan questions on behalf of all students.
“Describe the feeling of standing on the gold medal podium,” asked Filipe.
MacLennan said it was “very surreal.”
“To be able to look around and see so many Canadian flags, what it represented; all the obstacles, all the people who supported me along the way,” she said.
Two of her biggest memories from the London Games were watching the athletes from all different sports and marching into the opening ceremonies.
When asked if she had any advice for aspiring athletes, MacLennan said, “Believe in yourself, believe anything is possible. You have the power to do what it takes.”