Flash Back: Part Two

Here’s one more routine from the 1999 National Championships.
I think it’s amusing that I don’t really remember these routines and they were the most recent, while other routines I could likely still perform (not well mind you but…)

Seeing these videos obviously has me reminiscing. I was quite honestly surprised by some of the things I did.  I enjoyed some of my apparatus handling and the musicality we were aiming for.  Although I realize (now) that I could have been even more expressive – but perhaps that comes with maturity and experience (which I have in spades now haha).  But my overall feeling is that I am proud of my ‘brand’ of gymnastics.

I was never flexible like a contortionist and this code of points didn’t emphasize the big risk elements we see today. But I believe that what we (my coaches and choreographers) were trying to achieve was the whole package – strong technique, interesting apparatus manipulation, expressive choreography and challenging musical choices, all put together in (a hopefully) enjoyable package.

I have to say Thank You AGAIN to Mario Lam for his kindness in transferring these videos.  To have seen these has meant a great deal to me, and I know to my peers of this generation.  I think it is useful to young gymnasts now as well.  We WERE dancing even when the code of points didn’t ask for it.  And if you look at routines from earlier generations as well you can see the challenging risks and handlings they were doing even then!  Sport will always evolve. It has to. But it needs to also remain grounded in “its essence”.  I feel like I was able to capture a bit of the essence of rhythmic gymnastics; and regardless of the outcome of my career I will always be honoured that the path I took and the experiences I had shaped the person I am, the gymnast I was, and the people I met.

Thank you for your kind comments on the previous post.  And to those of you who were my teammates, competitors, friends, and coaches I thank you for the impact you have had on my life.  This is why sport is so important.  You are why sport is so important!

Flash Back: 1999 Nationals

Here are two routines that a dear friend Mario Lam recently transfered from VHS (ha remember that).  Thank you so much for doing that and sharing these wonderful memories (for those of us from that time when not everything ended up on the internet – well I suppose it does now!).

Here’s my ball routine:

And rope (can you count the miscues… there’s a few mistakes but I suppose these things happen!)


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The last two years of my life have been about rowing. It is something that we’ve lived, breathed, ate & slept. Of course up until four months ago I hadn’t sat in a boat or picked up an oar.

My life was about helping my husband, Malcolm Howard in his quest for a second Olympic medal.  After he and his teammates achieved that goal in London this summer, we moved to Oxford in order for him to pursue his Masters.  With little to do initially, I jokingly said to the OUWBC President who was coaching some of the Oriel Novice Women “Should I learn to row?”.  The next day I had a tank session.  And that’s how my rowing career began.

I took to the water after two tank sessions, likely under some false preconceived ideas of what it would be like.  After watching Olympic crews I knew I wasn’t going to be good, but I  didn’t think the suck would be so bad.  I came off the water that day in tears and has VERY reluctant to go back.

The next outing was an inter-college mini regatta. My crew won. Things were looking up.  After a long pause for my return-to-Canada-Visa-trip and the Holidays it was back to training.  This was where things actually got fun.

I began to like erg-ing. Anyone who has done Crossfit with me knows my disdain for the erg.  I think it was invented as a torture device.  BUT, little did I know I would enjoy 25 minutes pieces, and be thrilled to be back in the gym doing circuits and pushing hard to build strength and fitness.

The weather in England has not been very rowing friendly this year.  Flooding meant many red flags and ‘closures’ of the Isis.  While this did mean some fun trips to Wallingford (including one where Malcolm and the OUBC squad were training as well… talk about trying to keep your head in the boat while your husband yells “ERIKA” as you row by!), it also meant that the ‘newbies’ didn’t get out on the water as much as we’d hoped.

Then the 6th week of term arrived. I had been away in Canada for a wedding and returned to Oxford just in time for Rowing On.  This is when boats in the lower categories have to race a time trial in order to qualify and rank themselves for Torpids.  I’m happy I remembered how to row, having not been in a boat for a few weeks, and even happier to say we qualified!

Now the task will be getting the boat to move quickly, while we keep our focus amidst the craziness around us.  I’m not 100% sure what the experience will be like, but BUMPS racing is insane. Boats are lined up along the river according to ranking, and the objective is to catch and overtake or bump the crew in front of you.  I feel like it’s rowing+american gladiators… and I’m oh-so looking forward to it!

Hopefully I will have many stories to share by the end of the week!
Keep your fingers crossed for us and send some Oriel love this way 🙂

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
~ Confucious

P.S The boat race is only 33 days away.  Check out theboatrace.org for information or whichblueareyou.com to vote for Oxford and the Dark Blue!!!!

P.P.S Next year stay tuned for when Malcolm takes up either dancing or rhythmic gymnastics (we’ll be holding a vote for you to decide which!!!!)

Feel Good News: February 11

This video is pretty incredible.  A 15 year old who’s family friend died of Pancreatic Cancer decided to research and develop a new method for diagnosing cancer for a Science Project.  He developed a paper sensor that could detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in five minutes for as little as 3 cents…. and he fully admits that at the beginning of his project he didn’t even know he had a pancreas!  

We have so many resources as at our finger tips… How will you use your knowledge, talent and power to make a difference in the world?

The definition of me

How do you define yourself?  Do you use your job (a teacher, doctor, lawyer, stay-at-home)? Do you use your hobbies/passions (yogi, crossfitter, runner, knitter, scrapbooker)? Do you use your family (mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, aunt)?  Do you use your accomplishments (success, failure, graduate, Olympian)?

Success definition

The concept of defining oneself has come to my mind a number of times in the last year.  Things started to hit home when I came to London for the Olympics and was surrounded by everything that alluded me.  If you’ve read my earlier posts you know that while a small part of me is saddened by the fact that I didn’t make the Olympic team (twice), you will also know it’s likely the best thing that ever happened to me.  But accepting that also meant accepting the fact that I could never call myself an Olympian – although in reality I was pretty much everything but.  In London I would also be Malcolm Howard’s wife.  Being Mrs. Howard is always a source of pride, yet to be known through someone else somehow diminishes one’s own accomplishments and identity.

It’s the same when you go to a party and meet new people and everyone starts out with “what do you do?”.  Often I feel like replying “what don’t I do?” How can you be defined by one thing.  Exactly, you can’t.  The definition of me is always changing.  As life evolves, I learn and grow and evolve too (one hopes!).

I thought about this as my husband and his teammates prepare and begin selection for the 2013 Boat Race.  These men have given years of their life to their sport, just like I did (way back when).  They put other aspects of their lives on hold, and risk failing in other areas like their education or personal lives because of the high demands required.  And so many things can go wrong.  They can get injured, sick, or those other ‘demands’ might get too demanding.  Achievement often means every star is perfectly aligned.  I first realized that as an athlete, and now I see it repeatedly as a coach and supporter.  People who could and should win, don’t.  And sometimes the people whom you never thought would be in the picture suddenly come through because everything came together at exactly the right moment.  Is it timing? Fate? Luck? Perhaps.  Maybe it is our destiny. Or maybe it is just life.  Some things go for us, some against us.  And in those times when life seems against us, and we feel like a failure – that is when we must learn, and grow, and evolve.  Winning is easy.  Not achieving what you want, but acting like a winner is TOUGH!  Seeing someone else living your dreams means you must swallow your ego and appreciate their journey.

But there’s that magical word. Journey.  Just because I took the entire road to get to the Olympics but can never call myself an Olympian – does that make me less than someone who can?  No.  And anyone who thinks it does has obviously never walked that line.

The next time you stare down your dreams and do everything in your power to achieve them – know that you can already define yourself as a winner. As strong. As courageous.  As a success.  Regardless of the outcome.


Does this seem familiar?

Sometimes I wonder if there are any new ideas… Ok that’s an over simplification. But really, many things in life are theme and variation.  Watch this video for a striking example!

Same four chords. Hits galore.
But do you ever get stuck on putting something out there in the world because it’s already been done?

Recently I’ve been wanting to take this whole blogging thing to another level. Yet, as I receive some of the daily emails from Life Coaches/Motivators/Bloggers-extraordinaire I begin to question: Does the world really need another one?

Listening to that video, I laughed in so many places and was surprised by the number of songs that I enjoyed and would never have linked together like that.  Of course that may be due to my poor musical knowledge, but let’s skim over that shall we!

What sets each song apart, is the same thing that will differentiate what you are doing.  YOU! It’s what you bring to what you are doing.  When you infuse your passion, your heart, your brilliance, your talent, your creativity (perhaps in this example it’s about lyrics versus chords etc), your joy – that’s what resonates with people.

Think of this in another way.  Rainbows.  One is brilliant. Two is… a DOUBLE RAINBOW. Which is way more than doubly awesome!

So go out today, and bring your own version of magic to what’s already been done!  You might just be the next #1 HIT!

Mirror Mirror

Currently, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite.  I use this blog as a forum to share inspiration and positivity, and yet recently I haven’t been practicing what I preach.  I’ve been dwelling in the negative, not thinking with abundance and have been to self-critical.

In order to break out of my funk I do what most people do when they need something.  I talked to my mom.  She has this way of shifting how I’m viewing the world, so I realize that what I’m seeing as problems are easily solved with just a change of thinking.

How do you see yourself?
For the majority of my life I have been either a gymnast or a contemporary dancer.  I am always trying to be perfect: to match someone’s ideals or what the exact image should be/look like.  Just the other day a choreographer I was working with wanted to show us the video of the piece we were going to perform.  Video work is often used in art/sport as a tool for feedback and refinement. I hate it.  I hate seeing myself on the screen.  I dislike mirrors in dance classes.  I prefer to feel things.  When I see myself on video or in a mirror I can only ask myself “Do I really look like that?”, instead of using it as a device to improve.

The trick is – this whole seeing myself issue carries over to other aspects of my life.

I’m here in Oxford, England surrounded by likely some of the most brilliant minds and accomplished people on the planet.  Attending a formal dinner feels like ‘future nobel prize winners’ dinner… seriously!  I often think to myself “one of these things just doesn’t belong here“.

And yet, if I stop and think rationally about it I’m a pretty smart little lady even if I’m not the one currently attending Oxford (Dean’s List in Uni), I was quite accomplished when I was competing (Most Medalled athlete at 98 Commonwealth Games), I was fortunate enough to take some risks and reep some pretty amazing rewards (travelling, working with different dance companies, meeting incredible people).  As it turns out – a lot of the things I admire about other people are things that I have done too!

How do you see yourself now?
The next time I begin to question my value, or I start to diminish my worth and accomplishments I will see myself through someone else’s eyes.  I will imagine how my mother sees me.  I will picture myself through my husband’s love goggles.  I will think of the sweet image my niece has of me, or my best friend.  And if I was a mother I would think of how my children see me – full of love, gratitude, openness, and acceptance.

I’m not saying we should be soft on ourselves, and think everything we do is wonderful.  But a bit of generosity and kindess can enable us to treat OURSELVES as we treat others. Yes you read that right.

Do you ever notice that you forgive others for little things they do.  For being late, for forgetting something.  Like the other night I forgot to turn both knobs on the oven on, and so the lasagna wasn’t cooking.  And because I was not in my happy place, this contributed to me feeling like a failure – simply because we had to wait an extra half hour for dinner… But if my husband would have done it, I would have thought it was no big deal.

We need to show the same compassion for ourselves as we do to those we love (and hopefully to perfect strangers too!)

Perspective creates understanding
As a teacher/coach I have the privilege of guiding other’s to achievement.  The most rewarding aspect is to see what someone is able to overcome.  Knowing someone’s struggles and what they have accomplished in spite of it makes the result seem even greater.  From the outside it may not seem like a big deal but the bunny hill to some is the Everest for others!

See others with this eye of empathy but remember to keep some of that understanding for yourself too!