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Between the Sheets: The Lessons of the Medal – Teamwork

When I look back at our team’s journey and what was accomplished I have to pinch myself – an Olympic silver medal!

Cori Bartel, Carolyn Darbyshire, and Susan O'Connor look on at the Olympics in Vancouver (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Our journey was not just those two incredible weeks in Vancouver, but four amazing years with my teammates plus decades for each of us dreaming about winning something significant in our favorite sport.

Serious athletes understand how hard it is just to have an opportunity to compete, but to be called an Olympian. This is special. We were 2nd in the world by only a millimeter. We get to call ourselves Olympians forever. We get to show this silver medal till the day we die. And believe me, this is more than a medal. It’s a Symbol!

When we received our medals, we never did just see a shiny piece of silver with an incredibly beautiful design. We saw a journey. Lessons. Each other. We saw our coach, our husbands, and our children. We saw our parents and our friends. We saw early morning practices and late nights… trying to get it right. We saw thousands of emails of support from people across Canada we have never met. And mostly we saw each other…and what we had done. We can look at this medal and never regret working hard, making sacrifices, being disciplined or focusing too much.

When you accomplish a goal or a dream you have poured your life into, there are triggers or reminders of the life-lessons you have learned along the way. You will not believe the great memories and triggers this medal instantly reminds me of. More than the Olympic magic or experience, our team has taken home some life lessons that will continue to forge our characters forever. We have relearned the lessons of the silver lining like never before.

Of those life lessons the three that have really stuck with me are:

#1 – The Importance of Team Work (which translates into relationships)
#2 – Pursuing your dreams & how important that is
#3 – Perspective – how important that is in sport & life

Team work
One of my favorite quotes regarding the significance of team work is by Ahmad Rashad – former NFL football player and NBC sportscaster. He said;

“Sports can unite a group of people from different backgrounds, all working together to achieve a common goal. And even if they fall short, sharing the journey is an experience they’ll never forget. It can teach some of the most fundamental and important human values: dedication, perseverance, hard work and team work. It also teaches us how to handle our success and cope with our failure. So, perhaps the greatest glory of sport is that it teaches us so much about life itself.”

And surprisingly, some of the best lessons in life are taught after a loss – not a win.

I am sure some of your saw our final gold medal game – the arena was electrifying – the sound level at the venue was tested as loud as a rock concert, the fans were like hockey fans it was a sea of red (and the Flames weren’t even playing!) I remember going down to throw my shot in 10 – it wasn’t an overly difficult shot…but with 7000 screaming fans and another 7 million watching at home…you just don’t know. But I remember feeling pretty calm…I threw it well…we called to clean…then it didn’t move and jammed on the opposition stone to give them a shot to tie the game up.

Our team came together immediately after the shot and we said “lets get them in the extra end” no worries, no panic…just belief.

My final shot in the extra end was a double takeout to win a gold medal. Most of you by now realize that I didn’t make that shot we missed a gold medal by millimeter. It was a shot – similar to an 8 foot putt…sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t – but on that day it didn’t go in for me. I remember thinking this can’t be – we had been making last shot game after game, from the Trials through the Olympics – I was very stunned.

Now to the team part. When the game is over – the officials literally run out onto the ice to hustle you straight to media…TV needs to get their quotes and coverage before the medal ceremony and there is literally no time. But to this day – with us in a state of shock I will never forget that the absolute first thing that my team did was come together on that ice and hug – and someone said “I am proud of us”.

It’s more amazing than anyone will truly understand –because at that moment you are raw and vulnerable for the world to see..and sometimes the world doesn’t see the best….but in front of 7 million plus people we were able to show everyone a glimpse of what “team” really looks like.

Immediately after the medal ceremony we were rushed directly to CTV press conference. They sat us down behind microphones and the media began their barrage. At this point we had not had a chance to say anything to each other- I was barely holding it together. The media asked about the shots..the medal… how I felt.. It was the toughest thing I ever had to do. Finally one of the media asked Susan how she felt about losing the game. She literally jumped at the question. “I am glad you asked me that”. She said, “We wouldn’t have won the Trials or had a chance at a gold medal unless Cheryl had played like she had this year, and made the shots she did – there is no one I would rather have throwing last rock for me.”

It was at that exact moment I realized how amazing this team was and what an incredible relationship the 4 of us had. And that, the team building and chemistry that we had created was for this exact moment in our curling careers – and it would enable us to realize that we had not lost a gold we had won a silver medal.

Stay tuned for lesson # 2 on September 6th!