February 26, 2006
McBean talk motivates medallists
KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

Canadian skeleton athlete Melissa Hollingsworth-Richards took Marnie McBean aside after she won her bronze medal for Canada last Thursday.

"She said, 'Can I show you something?' " four-time Canadian Olympic medallist Marnie McBean recalled yesterday.

"She showed me where she'd taken notes at a presentation I gave."

The presentation was one of several McBean, who has three rowing gold medals and a bronze, gave to Canadian athletes headed to Turin, about what it takes to be an Olympic medallist. The workshop was presented by the Canadian Olympic Committee's Olympic Excellence Series.

Canadian Jennifer Heil, mogul gold medallist, also told McBean that she was one of her heroes.

McBean, a former Londoner, knows what it takes to win and was therefore signed on to act as an athlete liaison officer here.

"It's been incredibly special," said McBean, who is helping Canadians competing in a slew of mountain events, including biathlon, alpine skiing and ski jumping.

Short-track speed skater Francois Drolet and synchronized swimmer Kristin Normand are also assigned to work with athletes.

The program is part of the COC's high-performance plan designed to help Canada achieve its goal of a top-three finish in Turin.

As former Olympic medal winners, McBean, Drolet and Normand act as advisers and mentors to the athletes -- handing out information, resolving operational issues and tying in practical skills and strategies for success.

McBean has a work area in Sestriere where athletes gather to talk and hang out, she said.

While athletes are able to come to McBean with specific questions and for advice, she said her normal day involves simply "conversations."

"Sometimes I hear them talking about (worries) and I help them realize . . . it's normal. You are going to be scared to death. It's like being a buddy who has been there and been through it," McBean said.

The star rower, a Western graduate, who spent many years based in London training at the high-performance centre at Fanshawe Lake, said the program is something the COC should continue because she knows it makes a difference to competitors.

"I've gotten feedback from athletes who said there were things (I said) that made them do things . . . differently."

She even has a future candidate for the liaison role.

"I was talking to (hockey player) Cassie Campbell . . . and when she decides to retire, this is something she'd be good at," McBean said.

In a COC report, the committee concluded the difference in performance between winning a medal and finishing just off the podium was as small as a one per cent.

"Through initiatives such as athlete liaison officers, the COC is working to help provide Canadians with every opportunity to obtain that last one per cent advantage," a release said.

McBean's duties began Feb. 3 and she's done after the men's 50-kilometre and women's 30-kilometre cross-country skiing competition today.