I will never forget the summer of 2016 when I had a baby and a toddler and they were really getting in the way of my watching the Olympics in Rio. Cost, politics, negativity aside, I love the Olympics.
I remember vividly that fateful day in 2016 when God looked down at me one nap time and granted me the gift of watching women’s soccer.
It was Aug. 19, 2016 and Canada was facing Brazil in the bronze metal match. I laid my son down in his own room and he fell asleep quickly. My daughter was six months old at the time and I nursed her to sleep while lying on my bed in front of the TV.
Miraculously, both slept through the entire match.
I remember lying there with my daughter watching Canada win the bronze thinking ‘what a moment’. What a moment to share with my daughter, even if she was sound asleep at the time. I’ll never forget it.
Last week I watched the Canadian women take their first-ever gold in soccer — with my daughter by my side on my bed yet again — but this time she was awake and cheering right along with me. That felt like a full circle moment, and one I’ll cherish for a long time, but if I’m honest, it’s been skateboarding that has stuck with me for Tokyo 2020 and that has to do with Canada’s last minute entrant to the female street event, Annie Guglia.
Guglia, 30, narrowly missed the initial Olympic cut but travelled to Tokyo as an alternate. When the South African skater pulled out due to an injury, the Montreal-born athlete was thrust into the mix 36 hours (or thereabouts) before the competition was to begin.
Her Olympics came to an end after the preliminary round as she fell short of qualifying for the finals. Guglia ended up 19th overall.
Guglia is not your stereotypical skater: sure she can shred, but she’s also an academic, with her masters in business strategy. She wrote her masters thesis on the skateboarding industry. She’s an LGBTQ rights activist, very involved in advancing the sport of skateboarding for both women and minorities, she designs skate parks, and even teaches young people how to skate, among many other things.
We happened to have one of those Cheerios boxes that had the postage-paid ‘Cheer’ postcards you could cut out and send to Canada’s Olympic athletes so while we watched the skateboarding events on television, my daughter dutifully dictated her message to Guglia and followed it up with some colourful artwork of skateboards. Later, I snapped a photo of her putting it in the mail and, on a whim, we sent the photo to Guglia’s Instagram. I didn’t think anything more of it until my phone buzzed the following day and it was a reply from Guglia herself.
She said thanks for the postcard (who really knows if or when she’ll get it?) and we had a brief exchange through private messages. Guglia noted she was on her way home from Tokyo and even sent my wannabe skater a photo of her on the plane!
While not at all the sport I’d envisioned for my daughter, I can’t help but think she’s picked a solid role model. Needless to say, my girl is keen to have her first skateboard sooner rather than later because, as we learned on TV, a lot of the best skaters started when they were five years old, too.
Around the same time as we sent that postcard, we’d visited a friend of mine and her two children, who are near to but slightly older than my own kids. They must have played a dozen different things over the course of the two hours or so we’d been visiting but the one thing I never saw them play was basketball. Apparently they did, though.
I know this because ever since then, every spare moment my daughter has these days, she’s been in the garage working on her dribbling skills. When I asked her what got her into basketball so out of the blue, I assumed she’d say the Olympics but she said her (slightly older) friends had basketballs and now she wants to play, too.
She’s been practising all types of important moves: bouncing it with her right hand and catching it, bouncing it with her left hand and catching it, bouncing it with one hand while jumping, bouncing it and walking, bouncing it and trying to run, bouncing it with her eyes closed, bouncing it standing on one leg, bouncing it standing on one leg with her eyes closed and so on. She’s quite determined to bounce it through her legs but doesn’t seem to understand there’s quite literally not enough room under her to fit the entire ball just yet. Still, it’s fun to watch her try. It’s even more fun to watch her never give up.
For kids, inspiration comes from everywhere. It could be from the Olympian competing on the other side of the world that takes the time to send them a photo from the airplane, and it could be from friends across town they don’t see too often but still look up to. It’s my job as a mom to jog alongside my kids as they run to wherever that inspiration takes them. That’s why I’m always wearing sneakers.