Interview With Olympic Champion

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The longest serving member of Canada’s National Women’s Team, Hayley Wickenheiser competed in the first five Olympic Games in which women’s hockey was included, winning four gold and one silver medals to make her one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians! 

We had the opportunity to interview the incredibly talented Hayley Wickenheiser! She is a powerful inspiration for many people, most particularly Canadian women! Hayley has accomplished so much in her 42 active and driven-full years of life. Read on to learn more about Hayley, and how she deals with the mental portion of competitive sport!

SLM: What do you do to calm your butterflies before competing?

Hayley: I try to remind myself that I am not alone, I have twenty other players with me and I can divert the pressure. I take big drinks out of my water bottle and spit it out on the ice, it’s kind of like spitting out the pressure. I also usually write a word on my hockey stick such as jump, push, or easy speed… something like that to remind me to be calm. I also try to engage myself with the game as soon as possible, get into the first shift, get a shot on net, and forget about all the other stuff.

SLM: How old were you when you started competing?

Hayley: I started competitive sport at 12 when I played in my first Canada Winter Games in 1991. 

SLM: What is your plan to get to your best state of mind?

Hayley: I believe in having a routine, so I used to get to the rink about 2 hours before a game and I would start my on ice warmup 45 minutes before, I’d always listen to music, I’d juggle, stickhandle a ball, do my dynamic warmup and I’d also put my equipment on the same way every time. I found a routine can really calm you and give you that sense of consistency and knowing where you are going which is really important.

SLM: What is one word that describes you?

Hayley: Driven! 

SLM: Who inspired you as a young athlete?

Hayley: I used to love the Oilers of the 1980 Gretzky. I didn’t have any female role models to look up to, so watching the players of the NHL is who inspired me!

SLM: What kind of positive thinking tools do you use to prepare yourself all year round?

Hayley: I am a glass half full kind of person by nature, I believe in not dwelling on the past, I believe in making mistakes but failing forward, not being embarrassed about failures, but instead owning them and being willing to learn and fall down every day is a really important thing. I think trying to not take things personal, as hard as it is, is really important when you can remind yourself that when people lash out, often it’s not really about you, but instead what’s happening around you. I like to talk to myself around staying disciplined and working hard. I also always visualize, it is a huge part of it. I used to lay in bed at night and i’d imagine myself scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal, i’d imagine myself doing great things on the ice. I believe in watching the best and trying to copy the best form of flattery.

SLM: What’s the best part of winning?

Hayley: Celebrating with your team! Seeing the joy on everyone’s face and feeling relief and accomplishment that you got the job done.

SLM: What was your best day ever as a professional athlete?

Hayley: Probably the day I scored my first goal in professional men’s hockey in Finland!

SLM: What is your biggest goal for the future?

Hayley: Right now it’s to finish medical school (and survive) to become a doctor. I have a lot of other goals too that I am constantly working towards as well.

SLM: What is the best advice you have for teens starting a new sport?

Hayley: Do something you love and don’t be afraid to look silly or to make mistakes early on because everyone is feeling the same way and I would say to find some friends, mentors and coaches who believe in you and you can talk to. Watch the best players in the world in your sport because it will really help you get better.

SLM: How do you deal with fear and negative thoughts in your own mind?

Hayley: I think I have a lot of fears everyday, when I was playing. Fear of loosing, fear of making a mistake, (now in medicine) fear of not knowing the answer, fear of failing, fear of looking silly in front of patients… so feel the fear and do it anyways, that’s a nice quote and it is true. I like to let it come in, I like to really internalize what the fear is about, then I often ask myself, is the fear true? What would happen if I fail? What would be the worst case if this didn’t go well? It is surprising how many times the answer really isnt gonna be that bad after all. So by acknowledging your fear and embracing it and going right into it, it is the only way through, not around. 

SLM: How many hours on average do you workout per week?

Hayley: I think I probably workout about 14 hours per week right now. I would say a couple hours a day, if not more and sometimes a bit less.

SLM: Do you have a specific diet?

Hayley: No, I don’t. I believe in lean, clean and green. Having a cheat meal and some treats every once in a while is just fine. I find that diets don’t work, it’s about philosophy, routine, and good habits.

SLM: Is there anything else you would like to share with youth dreaming big dreams?

Hayley: I would just like to say that life doesn’t have to be lived in a box. We often have these expectations put on us by society, and this is how it should be- we should be married, have children, we should have a job, and really just do all these things that society tells us to do but I think we should just live our lives according to what our passion is and dream. One person’s journey is not the same as another person’s and it’s really important to believe in your heart and stick to what fuels your fire.

“To be Olympic champions for the second time in a row is great. It’s definitely harder to defend gold than to win it”.

– Hayley Wickenheiser