Team Canada athletes share the best advice they’ve received

All athletes know that participating in sport is a learning process, no matter what level you play at. We asked some of Team Canada’s top athletes across a variety of sports for the best advice they’d ever been given–and almost all of the answers apply not only to sport, but to life.

Here’s what they had to say:

Two-time Olympic medallist sprinter Aaron Brown:

Canadian Aaron Brown competes in the Men’s 4x100m finals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Friday, August 06, 2021. Photo by Stephen Hosier/COC

“A quote that I really like these days is: ‘A loser will look at difficulty in every opportunity but a winner looks at opportunity in every difficulty.’

The quote just speaks to the fact that there’s going to be moments where you don’t succeed, you don’t seize the moment. You fall short, and that’s okay. It’s part of the story. You don’t get rainbows without a little rain. So, if those moments come, just know that it was meant to happen eventually. Everybody goes through it. Success isn’t about the avoidance of low moments. It’s accepting the low moment and bouncing back to the best of your ability and being able to use that as a lesson and learn from it.

There’s so many lessons you can get from failure, but people are afraid of it. If you embrace failure and extract everything you need to from it and learn those lessons, you’ll be better for it in the long run. And sometimes a moment will set you up for an even bigger moment down the road and you won’t know it if you don’t take advantage of learning the lessons you need to learn at that time.”

Beach volleyball Olympian Melissa Humana-Paredes:

A beach volleyball player in red top and black pants kneels on the sand to bump a ball
Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson of Canada play against Ana Silva Ramos and Eduarda Santos Lisboa of Brazil in the Women’s Team Beach Volleyball finals during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games on Friday, October 27, 2023. Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC

“One mantra that I’ve been sticking to lately has been ‘this too shall pass.’ I think that is extremely relevant in both really challenging situations but also really positive situations. And so what I take from that is–everything will move on. And so how you want to approach a situation and how you choose to embrace the situation is up to you, but it will pass by.

So for the good moments, embrace them and relish in them and take your time with them because they will move by really fast. And even the really challenging, tough situations, those will also move by. And so you don’t have to worry that it’s going to be like this forever. It will pass. And so that kind of keeps me really present and really trying to cherish the journey because it really does go by so fast. And whether the moment is good or bad, I just want to be there.”

Olympic-bound surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin:

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin carries her surfboard as she gets out of the back of a pickup truck
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin after earning Olympic qualification in women’s shortboard at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games (ISA/Pablo Franco)

“One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve gotten was actually when I was pretty young. I don’t want to butcher how he worded it, but it was basically: be grateful for every experience that you have, and every opportunity.

It can obviously be hard with losses to see them as a positive thing because sometimes they aren’t positive. But what failure always does is build up your character and adds to you, whether it changes how you look at something in the future or just gives you a different experience in life. Failures build you up as the person that you become.”

Olympian and rugby sevens captain Olivia Apps:

Canadian rugby players chase an opponent carrying a ball
Fiji’s Ana Maria Naimasi runs with the ball, pursued by Canada’s Bianca Farella, left, Olivia Apps, second right, and Breanne Nicholas in their women’s rugby sevens match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

“I think the biggest, most important piece of advice I’ve received is this–trust your gut and trust your instincts. I think sometimes as a player on the field, you’re nervous about doing something because you don’t want to mess up and you don’t want to let the team down.

But most of the time your instinct is what you actually should do. It’s the play that you should make. And that’s the same off field. I need to trust in my gut with decisions that I make on how to lead this team and, and when I was a younger player, what I should be doing with my role on the team. And so I think trusting your gut is sometimes literally the only thing you have.”

Triathlete Emy Legault:

Emy Legault runs in a red swimsuit past a row of bikes
Emy Legault of Canada competes in the women’s individual triathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Friday, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

“The best advice that I’ve received is that you have to believe in yourself because even if the world believes in you, if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s not going to cut it on race day. You’re the one who’s standing on the start line. They can’t make it happen for you, so if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s just not going to happen.”

Pan American Games steeplechase champion Jean-Simon Desgagnés:

Jean-Simon Desgagnés of Canada celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase Finals during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games on Saturday, November 04, 2023. Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC

“My high school coach taught me that sports are fun–they should be fun. I feel like I’ve carried this my whole career, just seeing this game as it should be, just a game of sports and a fun time at the end of the day. So I feel that’s what I want to carry for the rest of my career.”

World silver medallist archer Eric Peters:

Eric Peters takes aim with his bow
Eric Peters of Canada competes in the Men’s Archery Recurve during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games on Wednesday, November 01, 2023. Photo by Thomas Skrlj/COC

“Honestly, the best advice I’ve ever received I got this year, and it was to just go for it. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if you go for it? Because if you’re too careful, it’s only going to be worse than if you just went for it. So just do it, right? It’s really that simple. Get yourself out of your head.”

Pan American Games champion and Olympic track athlete Charles Philibert-Thiboutot:

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot of Canada celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 1500m finals during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games on Thursday, November 02, 2023. Photo by Leah Hennel/COC

“I’ve received a lot of advice that I needed to hear at different times. But if I go back to the period where things were not really going well for me, one day I gave a call to Nathan Brannen. He ran the 1500m, he’s now retired, but he made the final in Rio 2016 and he was a person that I both looked up to and was fighting against for podium spots at nationals earlier in my career.

Like me, he’s had his fair share of injury struggles. I asked him: ‘How do you come back from it? How do you make sure that you perform well, even with all of this?’ And he gave me good advice; he told me that it’s tempting to be greedy when you get good. You want to race every other weekend, try to make money with it, you want to show everyone that you’re competitive. But he told me that it’s really important to never lose sight of the bigger goals. And obviously, for this year, the bigger goal is the Olympics. So to make sure that in my yearly plan, anything that’s not geared towards being at my absolute best at the Olympics, I should probably discount.

With that concept in mind, I really doubled down on rehab and then eventually made it back and was able to build momentum. And now I’m in this position where I have the Olympic standard. And the Olympics is just going to be this one big goal, and I think it’s paid off.”

Olympian and world champion artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau:

Canadian artistic swimmers Claudia Holzner and Jacqueline Simoneau compete in the Free Routine preliminary round during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Monday, August 02, 2021. Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC

“The best advice I think I’ve received was from my Olympic coach in 2020–he really taught me to have balance in life. He taught me that it’s okay to relax on your off time when you’re not in training. It’s okay to not think about training and to have a pizza once in a while with your friends, go to the movies and that these are all things that actually help you succeed in life. And if you have that balance it helps you excel even more in sport.”