Gabriel Gabriel Slythe-Léveillé, employee and Canadian champion in the 400mH
Overnight, I saw my little world fall apart in one simple decision, Canada will not participate in the next Olympic Games. Participating in the Olympic Games has always been a dream and a huge source of daily motivation. The simple fact of thinking that my goals are achievable and achievable helped me to surpass myself every day in training and to keep the focus on my target. Even if many could think that I was irrational in my fixed objectives as well as my choices made, that never prevented me from investing myself in what I believed to be my destiny, that is to try my luck towards the Olympic rings, no matter what it would imply. In fact, after my studies at the University of Sherbrooke completed in 2017, I wanted to accomplish what my two parents had achieved, namely to participate in the Olympic Games. Being Canadian champion in the 400m hurdles, I could imagine myself, realistically enough in my eyes, accomplishing this feat.
For me, 2020 was the culmination of a great project in which I had invested a lot of time, energy and money. Since January 2018, I spent the majority of the year in Europe, more precisely in Montpellier which is located in the south of France. Most of my physical preparation was done there, as well as the start of the competition season. I just spent a few months in Quebec during the year. I joined a professional group made up of a dozen athletes and an incredible coach, with whom I shared the same passion, athletics, as well as similar objectives. All in all, achieving my goals or not, was going to be able to prove to me that I had gone all the way, so that I could go out with my head held high, without any regrets. Living abroad over such a long period of time has not always been easy. More precisely, to move away, to isolate myself far from my entourage, to put my professional career on ice, to maintain my distant relationships with my close relations, I perceived all that as being difficult, but necessary sacrifices. In the end, I always kept in mind that doing what you love on a daily basis is simply priceless. It is certain that the moments passed, the individuals met as well as the experiences lived will forever be engraved in my memory.
If we return a few weeks earlier, I was in training camp in South Africa the two weeks preceding my return to Montreal on March 20. To be honest, I, like many people, had trouble understanding the situation the whole world is facing right now. No matter how I read and listen to the news every day, I never could have suspected the magnitude of the events. Careless, perhaps, but the fact remains that I did not feel in danger or even concerned in the face of this threat. When it all started in Canada and Quebec, I lived in an environment where everything was following its normal course since South Africa had not yet had any case.
It was not easy for me to accept the situation, even more considering that we were a few months away from the Games. In addition, I knew for the first time, a complete preparation for the season either without any injury or pitfalls. The camp in Africa was by far my most physically and psychologically successful intensive training camp, which allowed me to be optimistic about the summer season of 2020. As a first reflex, I saw at that time, not so far beyond the tip of my nose, only the impact on my season and on my physical condition. Above all, I questioned the reason for my investments in recent years. To the point that I was ready to do anything to stay in South Africa, to continue training as long as possible. I saw the possibilities of training in France or at home disappearing quietly, while here everything was still accessible. So I wondered why not be in an environment favorable to the achievement of my objectives while it was still possible. It took the intervention of my family and loved ones to, first, decide to come home and then make my return to Montreal a reality. This shows how much I had a "tunnel vision". Thanks to them, I was able to return safely and set foot in Canada while there was still time.
Still at the airport heading to Montreal on March 20, I never would have thought that postponing the Olympic Games was a possible option for anyone. I tried to imagine solutions to be able to train in the best conditions even knowing that everything was closed. What haunted me the most was imagining my competitors training in an environment that was not affected by the same constraints and difficulties as mine. Which would have led me to be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis them. Once back, it took me a few days to realize the extent of the virus. So, it was at this moment that I understood that the problem was much greater than the simple impact it had on my little sphere, on my training more precisely. Although hard to swallow, I already imagined myself not being able to compete this summer.
Canada's withdrawal from the Olympic Games was a heartbreaking decision for me. I would have lived well with the fact of not participating in the Games after having put the odds on my side. As I said earlier, I could have ended my sports career without regret. However, not participating because of a decision made for which I had no power and therefore that wiped out all of my investments in recent years, that never. With hindsight, I understand and support the decision made by the Canadian Olympic Committee. Although it was not an easy decision, it was the only logical decision that put the athlete and public health ahead.
I would be lying to you if I told you that postponing the Olympics to 2021 a few days later did not relieve me or give me a glimmer of hope. It is still too early to make a decision regarding my next 16 months. In fact, I want to make a thoughtful decision once my emotional outburst is gone, I have a clear picture, and most of all, the situation around the Covid-19 will allow it.
Until then, stay home and safe!