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Monday, November 9, 2009

Inspired by an Olympian!!!

A day late getting my weekend fun up here on the blog, and for good reason.  Had a great day yesterday at the Canadian SKi INstructors Alliance Proffesional Development day.  Had the opportunity to spend the day with some of Canada's leading pro's in skiing, equipment, training and many other facets of the great sport of skiing!!  The icing on the cake came with the key note speaker for the day.  As Canada is hosting the Olympics this year, and the mens alpine ski team is peaking at what seems to be a perfect time, the keynote was an abundantly appropriate speaker for the day.  In teh 80-90's Canada enjoyed a dominance on the World Cuip ski circuit with the gang know as the Crazy Canucks.  They inspired, generations of future athletes to reach for the podium to put Canada on the map.  One of those athletes and our keynote speaker was Brian Stemmle.  For those of you who dont know him, here is the Coles notes version of his ski career.  He was on the Canadian Ski team for more than 10 years, finally retiring in 1999.  Over his career he was always in the top seed against world competition.  ALong with  his teamates was well respected and a tough competitor.  At a race in 1989 in Kitzbuel, Austria(the Kona of ski racing, the SuperBowl event) Brian was skiing a fearless and lightning fast race, unitl he started to lose control.  Now imagine this......150km per hour, -5 degree celcius, on a hill that you could barely stand on it is so steep and you start heading for the trees....holy cr^$%^!!!  Brian lost control and flew into the fence.  He finished what is still regarded as one of the most spectacular wipeouts about 400m down the hill.  He was lifted off the hill be helicopter and brought to Insbruck Austria to a leading hospital where he was put into an induced coma.  His pelvis was chattered with internal beelding out of control.  One night he receveid 26 blood transfusions, his family flew in from Canada to be by his side. His father asked the doctor if Brian might walk again, at which time the doctor answered that his chance of living would be 50%.  here is where the inspirational part of the story begins.....
Being a committed  pro athlete who has aspired to be at the top, Brian was not willing to let the world go by him.  From the moment he woke from his coma, he began his return.  His early victories were in being able to lift his head, over weeks and months he graduated to walking and the progress continued.  As Brian 'trained' and fought against the odds given to him he reflected on the uinfinished business that he had.  He had been to 3 Olympics, but no medals were in hand.  He was determined to go and finish what he had started.  One day he was reading a magazine which had a photo of the Gold medal for the Nagano Olympics.  On that day, he cut out the photo and put it in his pocket.  For the next six months that photo would always, always be with him.  In the gym, at the movies, eating matter what hte photo made the trip into his pockets and would work with him towards the goal.  He spent countless hours completing the gruelling physical training required, time and time again visualizing himself on the race course skiing a perfect run, mentally preparing himself for a return as the dominant skier on the hill under the Olympic rings. 
IN February 1998 Brian was at the Nagano Olympics.  On the night before the race the coaches completed a draw for race numbers.  The lower the number the better off you are(usually the winner is always in a number of 15 or lower)  Brian got number 30, undeterred he headed off for his pre race prep.  His lucky day, race was cancelled due to weather.  At the rescheduled race there is another draw for numbers, number 30 again, oh well, he headed off confidently.  Winter has a special way of not cooperating, the race was cancelled again and reschduled for friday February 13.  This time he got number 20 as a start. 
On race day at the top, more than 50% of the first racers blew off the course.  Brian watches a helicopter carry one man off the hill in the same way that he had been carried off years earler.  His months of training, his mental preparation and his commitment to reach his goal gave him the strength and confidence to get in the gate unfazed by everything that was taking place.  The first guy down was still in the lead when Brian stepped up to the start.  The lead racer was almost celebrating at this time as it was against all odds he would be beaten.  3-2-1....Brian pushed out of the gate.....down the first steep pitch towards the corner that was eating all of the racers ahead of him....he blasts through the corner to the first intermedaite time....he is 8/100th of a second ahead....he flies through the course to the next time check....he is now 37/100th of  a second ahead(races are won and lost in 1/100 of a second)....he is flying down and poised to win his dream.  The commentators who are supposed to be objective are cheering for him....and then.....he hits a compresion bump and loses control off course.......
His months of determination and training and quest for his dream gone in an instant....or was it.....

As Brian talked about yesterday. he had a dream.  Life through obstacles at him which were seemingly insurmountable....his life almost taken from him in his quest.  It never let him lose site of the dreams he had set for himself. 
It is a great reminder for all of us.....we choose to do what we do for our own reasons.  As we head off on our individual journeys we are distracted by the world around us.  We allow those distraction to take over and make our dreams seem impossible to accomplish! 
Life is about reaching out, finding and  realizing the challenges that are in front of us.  It has its way of trying to deter us from reaching those challenges by throwing the unexpected in front of us.  Never, let the unexpected deter you from reaching your goal or dream.  We should accept it as a learning experience on the continued journey we are on and use the moment  to further enforce our desire to see our dreams to realization!
LIVE FOR YOUR DREAMS!  it may be a tough journey with some challenging and unhappy moments, but, you will grow along the way, make some  awesome friends, provide strength in your family life and most of all, you will learn every step along the way you are living your dreams! 

Thank you Brian Stemmle for an awesome and inspirational story.  I hope as an aspiring IRONMAN I and all other Ironamn athletes can learn from your resolve and move with more commitment that ever in our quest for the finish line.


  1. Thanks for the great post! I had forgotten about that incredible spill he took there. That's one of those replays on TV you don't actually like to watch... Great message!