Meet Your Assistant Chef de Mission, Peter Giles
You competed at the 1996 Games in Atlanta – what are your most vivid memories of your Olympic experience?
First and foremost, I remember my own races, which were my last international competitions and the culmination of eight years of work in the K-4. I really treasure the successes we had as a team and those moments will stay with me forever. There are a lot of other vivid memories mixed in with that. I was lucky enough to have my brother (Stephen Giles) as a teammate. The rest of my family and my wife Kate came to Atlanta, too, so I got to share that experience with the people closest to me.
Describe your feeling as you head back to the Olympic Games in a leadership role as Assistant Chef de Mission.
It’s an incredible honour and also very humbling. I’m proud to be able to contribute something to help all our athletes and their coaches and supporters.
What would be your advice for an athlete making a first Olympic appearance who may have a shot at a medal?
The key to converting that potential into a top performance is managing distractions. You’re talking about athletes who have already had success at the World Championships, or in other international competitions, so they already have all of the talent and strength that they need to succeed. The competition at the Olympic Games is only different in one respect, and that’s the amount of attention they are going to receive. Sometimes that could be a little bit overwhelming. The people who succeed are the people who can use that attention as a positive force.
How has the Olympic Games played a role within your own family?
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Olympic Games had a powerful role in shaping my life and my family. I went to my first Olympic trials at the age of 18, in 1988, and my brother competed in four Games after that. My parents and my sister went to the Olympic Games as spectators in 1996 and in 2000 and saw my brother win a bronze medal in Sydney. My brother and I are both still involved in competitive sport as volunteers, and of course we have a number of friends who are also Olympic athletes, so I am sure it is going to have a strong influence on all of our kids as they grow up.
How is life after athletics? Did you stay involved in sport?
After I finished competing, I went to work on my PhD thesis work full-time. I graduated a few years later and went to work for General Dynamics Canada in Ottawa. I’ve been with them ever since, and moved to the Halifax office in 2004.
On the sport side, I became a member of the High Performance Committee for the Sprint Racing Division of CanoeKayak Canada in 2001. I’ve been on the committee ever since, and I have been the chair for a few years, which means I sit on the executive of CKC. That’s been very rewarding and a lot of fun – there are a number of athletes and coaches from my “era” who also have taken volunteer roles, and it’s a great organization and a great group of people. I’ve also been involved with the COC, starting out as a member of the Athlete’s Council and serving on the Awards and Recognition committee one year. Right now I am an ‘A’ member and as Assistant Chef for 2008 I also play various roles with the COC.
In my personal life, I got married to Kate about a year after I finished competing, and we have three great kids: Adam (6), Mia (3), and Elise (1).
Has your time on Canada’s national team and being an Olympian helped you along the way in any respect?
There are things you learn from being an athlete and a member of a team that you really can apply to the rest of your life. I like to think that those experiences really complement my academic background, because sometimes pursuing a career in physics doesn’t give you a lot of those interpersonal or team-building skills. I’ve also learned a lot about success and failure, and how to deal with both, and that’s helpful in all walks of life.
From your perspective, how is the Canadian Olympic Team looking?
Since the summer competition season started I have been getting really excited about the Olympics. I am following our athletes with a lot of personal interest and I have been very impressed with what I see across the board. I have especially had a chance to see our flatwater canoe-kayak team up close and I am really looking forward to seeing some of our young athletes put up some personal best performances in Beijing!