Gold medallist offers advice to Olympic athletes on hold

From the small Prince Edward Island town of Summerside to the top of the Olympic podium, Heather Moyse (BSc ’00) has been described as Canada’s best-ever, all-round female athlete. Moyse, who studied kinesiology at Waterloo and has a graduate degree in occupational therapy from the University of Toronto, is a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medallist. Ten years after winning her first gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Heather speaks to University of Waterloo student Robyn Clarke about her life before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

Robyn: What advice do you have for Canadian athletes now that the 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed for a year?heather moyse

Heather: Some athletes will think of it as a setback, while other athletes will think of it as an opportunity, and the latter will be in a better mindset to do well when the Games finally do happen. For those who were on the top of their game and ready for the Games this summer, the key will be mindset and mental management. And there are two ways for them to look at the situation in a way that will keep them focused and on track. First, they will have to look at as a challenge, and choose to embrace that challenge. Secondly, they can look at it as an opportunity, providing them with more time to get even better. If an athlete adopts either of these two mindsets, they will be able to successfully deal with this postponement and train in a way that will put them in the best position to perform and execute their best when the time comes. This postponement will certainly rattle a few athletes and may even throw them off so much that it will affect their training and their future results. This is just another test of which athletes can perform best under pressure. The pressure at this point just so happens to be a year out from the actual competition.

Robyn: How has COVID-19 affected your work and how are you continuing to build community during this crisis?

Heather: COVID-19 has most definitely affected my work. As a full-time motivational speaker, my business has basically stopped in its tracks, as there are no events because of physical distancing. So, it’s now a time of introspective thought, transition and pivoting. It now becomes a timing and juggling act between pivoting my business, being sensitive to what people are going through and helping people with the goals that are important to them. Right now, it’s about continuing to connect with my family, friends and followers to provide some insight and help, but also time to just hang out together and discuss happy and funny things which is why I started a weekly Instagram LIVE segment called Happy Hour with Heather. I am also joining online events that are being streamed out to support people and communities — galas, Q&As, youth leadership events, fundraisers, etc. It really is a time when people are coming together more than ever.

Robyn: You’ve travelled the world as a high-performance athlete and as a motivational speaker. How do you maintain a sense of home and belonging?

Heather: No matter where I go in the world, P.E.I. will always be “home-home.” For me, home is where my family and community are. It’s the peace that comes with community. My family has always been hugely supportive. I think the best way they supported me was the fact that they didn't really care about results. They didn't care about the medals. They didn't care about the podium. They were excited for me if I was doing well at something I enjoyed. When I went home during breaks, I would be training on the Island. Instead of pushing bobsleds in the icehouse – an indoor push-training facility which we obviously don’t have in P.E.I. – I chose to push cars. One time, when it was snowing and too slippery and dangerous to push a car outside, I called the mayor and he got me access to this empty potato warehouse on the waterfront to push cars in (which couldn't be more P.E.I.). That’s what P.E.I. does. Islanders want to feel part of your story and help however they can. I think it's really fun. I have stories like that that I can share. 

heather moyse bobled

Robyn: What drives you to help young athletes?

Heather: It's about helping the mindset of all people, really. We need to start thinking differently and setting our goals higher than what we think is possible. When we shift our mentality to being about challenging yourself, it becomes less about succeeding or failing, and more about just figuring out what you're truly capable of. Going into the Olympics is where I realized the impact I could make. I had been doing some speaking since Vancouver but going into the Sochi Olympics I realized that I wanted to create an entire business around empowering other people by taking speaking more seriously, writing a book to reach more people, and have now incorporated coaching into my business to help people with their goals.

Moyse’s new book, Redefining ‘Realistic’ is available for personalised order through her website, You can follow her on social media at @HeatherMoyse.