Becoming an Olympian takes a lot of effort, incredible dedication and unconditional support from the people in your inner circle. The latter aspect was extremely important to rugby player Jen Kish in her quest for the Olympic podium. Here, the captain of the bronze medal-winning team at Rio 2016 explains why it was paramount for her police officer partner Nadene Selewich to understand her passion for sport.
Nadene and I met back in 2011 at a pub downtown in Edmonton. It was actually a fundraiser for the police and fire games. I donated two free personal training sessions into the auction and Nadene’s friend ended up bidding and won.
I was somewhat intimidated by her and I really didn’t know much about her except that we shared a common friend and she was a police officer. But we ended up meeting for a consultation and it’s so funny because we didn’t even talk about personal training once. All she did was listen and I just talked the whole time. I realized, hey, I kind of want to know more about this girl, she’s really intriguing. What’s crazy is that we both weren’t looking for a relationship, we were not pursuing anything, it just kind of happened. The next thing you know we were in love and now we are engaged. Six years together and going strong.
Despite their commitment, the prospect of Rio 2016 and other big dreams have pushed back wedding plans.
I would say that I am more married to rugby that I am to Nadene. I am in love with Nadene but married to rugby. Any spare time that we did have we went on vacation and spent time together because I was centralized in Victoria so I was living away from her and we were doing the distance thing for four years. So we said after Rio that we were going to get married. And then we decided to build a house. So we built our dream home and now we’re living in it. So I don’t know when we are going to get married but I feel like we are.
After only being together in Edmonton for a year, Kish had moved to Victoria to train full time with the national rugby sevens team, making their relationship long distance.
Being away from your partner and almost having them come second in your life at that moment is extremely difficult and you need somebody who really understands that and supports what you are doing. And I am fortunate enough to have a partner who understands and really supports what I’m doing or else the relationship really wouldn’t have lasted. Rugby was there before she was and she understood that. Before I moved to Victoria we created a really good foundation in our relationship and I think that helped us out tremendously.
Living apart is tough because I’m not her everyday life. You don’t see each other at night, so you’re trying to pick up the phone whenever you can. And even through our relationship was kind of second to my rugby because I was centralized, it was still a very high priority for me to make time for her because her support really helped achievement in my sport. What’s really cute was she went to Build-A-Bear and built me this bear. She gives me a pregame speech because I always try and call her the day before I play or the day of and she’s like okay, you’re going to be great, just do your thing, and sometimes I’m not always able to call her or hear that so she ended up giving me this Build-A-Bear that gives me this speech. And so even though I can’t hear her, I still have that bear who still brings her to me and is keeping the relationship strong.
While she competed in the biggest tournament of her life, Kish decided it would be less stressful if Nadene didn’t travel to Rio.
I know it’s crazy because people are like, “I want my family and friends there”, but it’s easier for me to focus on my task when I’m not there worried about the people I love. Not having her there to share that moment was really sad but at the same time it was less of a distraction for me and I knew she would be getting up early in the mornings and watching the games and sending me messages. We kind of just kept the same routine even though it was the Olympics. Fortunately the COC gave us phones and SIM cards and I was able to call her whenever I wanted to and be connected that way. So I was more connected to her in Rio than any other tours. Nadene was having her own Olympics here in Edmonton with all our friends and family. So when she’d FaceTime me I would see her and everyone else having a good time, supporting myself and the team. It was great to see that she was truly enjoying herself and it was nice to see that she wasn’t by herself, whereas in Rio she might have been.
Kish returned to Canada soon after winning Olympic bronze for a much-anticipated reunion.
I didn’t tell anybody but her that I was coming home, so she flew into B.C. to meet me at the airport. We spent the next two days driving back to Edmonton and reconnecting and telling stories. She was telling me about the lead up to the Olympics and what she got up to, and I was telling her about the village and my Rio experience. It was the end of one chapter, but the beginning of another chapter in our lives because we knew that we were in the middle of building our dream home and that now I’m going to be home for good training in Edmonton and going to bed together at night and having those conversations that we’ve been looking forward to for the last five years that we couldn’t have because I was centralized in Victoria. It was really special.