Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul by Jack Canfield

Book: Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul by Jack Canfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Canfield
disappointment, the 1980 Olympic Games eluded us when they were boycotted by many countries, including Canada. Then, in 1984, we didn’t make the team. After fourteen years of training and striving, we had to accept that our Olympic dream would remain out of reach. We retired from swimming to finish our degrees at McGill and start our careers.
    Then, one day five years later, while watching a synchro competition, we both experienced an unexpected sensation. We suddenly realized our Olympic dream was still alive, and we could no longer ignore it. On April Fool’s Day, 1990, we decided to make an unprecedented comeback and shoot for the 1992 Olympics. We were afraid to announce our plans in case we didn’t make it, but in the end, we were more afraid of not trying and having to live with the thought of “What if?” We decided to give it our all, and take pride in simply doing our best. “Si on n’essaie pas, on ne le saura jamais!” we said—“If we don’t try, we’ll never know!”
    Everyone said it would be impossible. But our intense desire provided the energy needed to persevere. We only had two years to get back in shape and be among the best in the world. No swimmer had ever come back after a five-year absence, especially not at the age of twenty-seven!
    We weren’t eligible for any funding, so we both maintained full-time jobs and trained five hours every day after work. We still had to support ourselves and fund all our travel to international competitions. We were determined to succeed, vowing, “Nothing will stop us this time.” For two full years we maintained that gruelling schedule without ever knowing if we’d make it.
    Thankfully, we had four dedicated coaches from Québec who poured their hearts and souls into helping us achieve our dream. Julie was our head coach, André directed our weight training, Richard helped us improve our conditioning and Denise helped with our accuracy in the water. We never could have done it without them.
    We were pushed to our physical limits during training since we had to make up for the five years off. Through it all, however, we still loved it and maintained our sense of humour. Sometimes we laughed so hard with Julie we ran out of air and ended up sinking to the bottom of the pool. Julie helped us to continue believing in ourselves. We can still hear her saying: “Okay les jumelles, vous êtes capables!” — “Okay, twins, you can do this!”
    The day of the Olympic trials finally came. We were confident but nervous. We could hardly breathe as we waited to hear our marks in finals. When they were announced, we jumped up and down hugging each other—we had won by 0.04! In that incredible moment we realized we were finally going to live our Olympic dream!
    We could hardly contain our excitement as Canada’s ’92 Olympic team gathered in Toronto, en route to Barcelona. When we received our Olympic outfits, we felt just like kids at Christmas! Then Ken Read, our chef de mission, called a meeting and said to the group: “Congratulations and welcome to the Canadian Olympic Team! You are now Olympians and no one will ever take that away from you.”
    Our Olympic experience was unforgettable. During the opening ceremonies, we were thrilled to walk into the packed stadium to thunderous applause, with hundreds of Canadian flags being waved. We also found out how much support we had from Canadians everywhere. Thanks to the Olympic Mailbag Program organized by Canada Post, our spirits received a tremendous lift during those last few stressful days of training. Many Canadians wrote their thoughts and wishes on a postcard simply addressed to “Penny and Vicky Vilagos—Barcelona.” After practice each day, we rushed to dig through the giant pile of bright yellow postcards sent to the Canadian team, and pick out those addressed to us. They came in French and in English, from old childhood friends in Montreal and Québec, complete strangers, former athletes, and proud

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