Olympian Laumann shares remarkable story of perserverance

Three-time Olympic medalist Silken Laumann provided an inspirational highlight as the keynote speaker at last week's Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association's Conference and Annual General Meeting.

As a genuine Canadian Olympic hero, Laumann continues to inspire people to strive to meet their potential and reach their dreams to achieve more than they ever though possible. Her keynote address, “Personal Excellence – Moving from Good to Great,” encouraged the audience to look past the barriers that limit their potential.

During her racing career Laumann earned a trio of Olympic medals along with a pair of World Championship titles during an illustrious career. She also provided Canadians with a moment of pride when she persevered to overcome a devastating injury leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

During training just 10 weeks before the Olympics Games she was ran into by a rowing tandem, with the impact severing muscles, ligaments and tendons in her left leg from mid knee to her shattered ankle.

She says her refusal to give up on her Olympic dream was her defining moment as an athlete.

"I wouldn't let it go," she said, recalling she was training from her hospital bed during a three week long stay in facilities in Germany and Victoria. While this was not the perfect plan, she visualized and dreamt she could do it. Today she says she can't even explain her recovery. In fact, in Barcelona she walking with her leg bandaged and with the aid of a cane, which caused the other competitors at the Olympics to ask if she was only there to assist with television broadcasting of the competitions.

She said her bronze medal achievement in Barcelona serves as a reminder of what's really possible in life.

"It really is the power of a dream over a goal," Laumann said.

"My message today… was about excellence and that personal piece that we all need to connect with, which is having dreams, being able to envision the best possible scenario for our life. Becoming aware of the beliefs that we hold deep within ourselves and how they limit us, and replacing those beliefs with more positive ones."

She also told the audience that the more you fail the more you have a chance to succeed. Laumann recalled she was favoured to win a gold at the 1994 World Champions in Indianapolis, but she double false started and was disqualified.

As a high profile athlete she had a crisis of confidence and was afraid of making another mistake. However, she channelled her anger, fear and doubt into a silver medal at the 2005 World Rowing Championship. She said she entered the final race with no game plan, and she just rowed as hard as she could. She describes this accomplishment as one of her most rewarding medals, as it allowed her to slay the dragons of fear and doubt which had paralised her.

"The only way to get through fear is literally to go through it."

She credited the guidance of Coach Mike Spracklen who mentored her for six years as being a big key to her rowing success.

"I had the good fortune of having a long career, and one of the big pieces of that was having Mike Spracklen come to Canada, that incredible coach, who brought so many of us to gold medals. I was just so fortunate, at a time where I could have gotten out of the sport, to have somebody like him come along and care so much and support my dreams."

Having pursued her athletic dreams, Laumann said everybody should have a dream they want to achieve and be inspired by these goals.

"I just believe that there's no time limit on a dream. There's no magical age where you're all of a sudden supposed to stop dreaming. I see that a lot. I think people who are retiring should have dreams."

She also takes the time to encourage all those around her to hold onto their dreams and goals.

"I inspire and encourage everybody in my life, whether they're related to me or I meet them on the street. I do that quite purposefully. Whether I'm in a grocery store and I can say something kind that's going to make that person's day better. Or whether I can get on the stage and for 45 minutes to an hour just open my heart and share what I know. That's kind of what I do."

Laumann is a passionate champion for physical activity for children, serving as a Right To Play Board Member as well as a Member of the Good Life Kids Foundation. She has seen the transforming power of sports, and improved health outcomes by participation and being active. She said her inspirational message was ideal for the audience attending the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association's Conference.

"The Parks and Rec people are kind of like the front-line workers. They are the individuals who are creating programs, creating opportunities in the community, for the community to be active. Activity is sort of the source of life force as far as I'm concerned. I feel like being active, moving our bodies every day, is really what gives us energy and a positive attitude and vibrancy."

"It's not just about our health. It's not just about increasing our lung capacity or staving off heart disease. It really is about the quality of ones life when you have the opportunity to participate in sports, to connect with your community, and just move your body in a healthy way on a daily basis."