Two Olympians were in Williams Lake last week speaking to children and adults about their lives leading up to London and the obstacles they overcame to get there.
Williams Lake’s Tim Rees, who competed in blind judo at the 2012 Paralympic Games, and Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane, who won a silver medal for Canada at the Olympics in the 1,500-metre freestyle, spoke to more than 500 children and 100 adults about perseverance, dedication and hard work Friday in the lakecity, wrapping up in the evening with a fundraising dinner hosted by the Williams Lake Blue Fins at the Longhouse.
There, both Rees and Cochrane told their stories.
Rees, 32, grew up in Williams Lake and was a former member of the Blue Fins prior to moving away to complete a master’s degree in applied mathematics. When he discovered the sport of judo he began training and setting goals. He spoke about his experience at the Games, surrounding himself with positive people, managing problems and overcoming obstacles.
“We all have to deal with big obstacles in life, and going blind is a fairly big one but there are things that have helped me deal with it,” Rees said. “The three major things are to have supportive and positive influence-type people around you, break down a big problem into smaller problems, and just being able to remain determined and focused.
“There’s always a solution around a problem if you’re willing to look at it the right way. You don’t necessarily have to go over the brick wall, you can go around it.”
Cochrane, who spent time Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in coaching sessions with Blue Fins swimmers, spoke about setting goals and how to achieve them.
“The most important thing for me when I was growing up were short-term goals,” he said.
“A lot of kids dream about the Olympics, which is a great dream that a lot of kids should have but it’s such a small amount that will actually get there. I don’t want that to sound diminishing but it’s about working towards goals.
“When I wanted to be an Olympian, I also wanted to make provincial championships, and it just progressed from there.”
He went on to talk about how a change in mentality needs to happen to increase Canada’s success in the sport.
“When I swim I want to make every swimming community in Canada proud,” he said. “And I think the biggest thing we need to work on is the mentality. The mentality of athletes that actually want to go to the Olympics with desire in their eyes is something we need to instill in the younger athletes.”
Williams Lake Blue Fins head coach Chad Webb said the benefits his swimmers will take away from the day are immeasurable.
“It’s a great message for everyone,” Webb said. “I think it benefits not only swimmers but anyone that comes in contact with these athletes. I think you come away feeling a little more motivated and energized about swimming and life after hearing these guys.
“The benefits were unimaginable, I think. If a couple kids took that message and changed their habits, or focus, or life, then the effects are priceless.”