Podcast: Marilyn Chidlow | Boland: Exceptional Volunteer | Sawyer: My Life Lessons | Radford: Navigating Uncharted Territories for Skating

Featuring Marilyn Chidlow

In this month’s alumni podcast, Debbi Wilkes welcomes former Skate Canada President, Marilyn Chidlow.  Marilyn is an Alberta native who has been involved in every level of skating volunteering including the local club level, the National Board level as the Skate Canada President from 2000 to 2006, and attending the Olympic Winter Games. Marilyn not only remembers her first steps on the ice but also some of her greatest challenges and successes as leader of Skate Canada.

In this episode, Marilyn continues to shine with the leadership and diplomacy which highlighted her Presidency of Skate Canada during some of the most memorable moments in skating history.  Her thoughtful, sensitive and positive attitude was a great role model for the organization and for the volunteers.


In Honour of an Exceptional Volunteer: Bill Boland

On August 26th, with the passing of western Ontario’s Bill Boland, skating lost a great friend and fan of the sport. From club volunteer in London, Ontario to Skate Canada’s Board of Directors, Bill’s influence and guidance helped steer the organization with vision, fairness, and common sense. We have highlighted below, Bill’s enormous contributions. We dedicate this month’s blog to Bill and his legacy.

Bill Boland remembered as dedicated Skate Canada volunteer who helped shape the Skate Canada we know today

More than a decade later, you realize the smile never really left Bill Boland’s face.

Flash back to the summer of 2010, and Boland, a driving force behind the bid to bring the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships to his adopted hometown of London, Ont., is elated, almost euphoric, after the southwestern Ontario city is awarded figure skating’s crown jewel event.

Over a volunteer career that spanned four decades, it is certainly one of his proudest moments.

Boland, who passed away August 26th after a courageous battle with cancer, is being remembered as a former Chair of the Western Ontario Section, Skate Canada Board Member and Finance Chair, Honorary Member of Skate Canada, and a tireless figure skating volunteer who spent much of his life giving back to the sport.

Each time those 2013 world championships were brought up in conversation, Boland’s face would beam with pride. The affable, charismatic insurance executive had a personal connection to London 2013 and would go on to chair the event that was an undeniable success for Skate Canada and the city.

“While he led his team to establish Worlds in London as a pinnacle event still talked about today, Bill epitomised the spirit and will of a true volunteer – passion, commitment, longevity, and selfless engagement. He helped shape the Skate Canada we know today”, stated Skate Canada President Leanna Caron.

“Bill carried the respect of the volunteer community and a sound business acumen to our organization. It is because of people like him, who give so much to our sport without expecting anything in return, that Skate Canada is one of the pre-eminent figure skating organizations in the world. He will be missed by all of us in the Skate Canada family.”

Boland’s work in bringing the 2013 world championships to London led him to being honoured as London’s 2014 sports person of the year award. He was also the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Citizenship Award in March 2013, just before London hosted the world championships.  He also received an Ontario Sports Council Award for lifetime commitment to the sport.

He is survived by Maureen, his wife of 50 years, daughters Tammy and Traci Lynn and granddaughter Hailey.

Boland joined the London Skating Club’s Board of Directors 40 years ago, moved on to serve as Western Ontario Section Chair and then sat for many years on Skate Canada’s board of directors and many of its committees.  In his quiet manner, his sense of fairness, financial skill and business acumen enhanced all deliberations assisting these bodies to successfully further the sport of figure skating.

As well, through his encouragement, he helped pave the way  for top figure skaters, including six-time Canadian champion Jennifer Robinson and world and Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

In January, Boland attended the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, where he saw Robinson inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame.  Boland, an avid sports fan, was also a long-time supporter of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.

He was always there with a handshake, a smile and, more often than not, a story.

“Bill gave so much to our sport and always did what was best for Skate Canada and our athletes,” says Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk.

President Leanna Caron adds: “Bill shaped an environment for youth, for champions, for people”.

Bill Boland, chair of the local organizing committee and finance director for Skate Canada, John Winston, general manager of Tourism London, David Dore, ISU first vice-president and Brian Ohl, general manager of Budweiser Gardens, pose for a photo at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at Budweiser Gardens in March, 2013. (Free Press file photo)

My Life Lessons

by Shawn Sawyer, Olympian and Canadian Medalist and Cirque du Soleil Performer

I went from five competitions a year to 300 performances a year!

When I look back at my competitive career, I understand many more things now comparatively to what I thought I knew when competing.

Stressed and frightened to not reach and perform at my full potential – this was my daily battle at the rink. Competitions left openings for me to let myself and others down. That’s how I perceived most of my career.

If I could go back, I would do everything in my power to change that negative mindset. Everyone is unique and different when it comes to coping with stressful situations, like competitions. Through my career, here is what I’ve learned.

Performing 300 shows a year makes you understand that you are a human trying to do superhuman things. It is very important to acknowledge your feelings and understand why these feelings are manifesting themselves at particular moments. Accepting your emotions and processing them correctly is an absolute relief, meanwhile storing them deep down and completely ignoring them will be counter productive.

In our sport, perfection is where we all aim. Guess what? Perfection is boring and unmemorable. Little flaws are what makes you want to grow and gives you the passion to continue to challenge yourself. Instead of over-stressing about being stressed, just process it and accept it. You can also share what you are going through. You can manage the situation and you can be in control of the moment.

Doing five competitions a year (summer championships, two ISU Grand Prix events, National Championships and Four Continents) you cross your fingers that the stars align for those particular days. Doing 300 shows a year, there is no way the stars will be in your favour 300 times in a row. You must accept the need to process every moment as they happen and move on to the next thing. I care a whole lot about the product I provide on the ice and I take great pride in performing my very best at any given time. I am successful at this because I have learned to not shy away from my feelings, my doubts, and my emotions. Everyone can apply this to their careers and see results as soon as NOW.

2011 Canadian Championships: Shawn Sawyer with Patrick Chan and Joey Russell

Work ethic will always guard you. Work ethic will always protect you. Work ethic will be your best friend when you need it the most. A consistent effort to push yourself at any given time will guarantee that you can perform under any condition. This is something that I have applied my entire career and it is the best way to achieve what you want.

My very first dream in life was to be part of a fantasy world of acrobatics called Cirque Du Soleil. I had dreamed of this before tying up a pair of skates. This happened quite late in my career and I know deep down that if I hadn’t continuously worked hard at my craft during my professional career this dream would have slipped through my hands and the opportunity would have been given to someone else.

Cirque du Soleil

My second dream was to become an Olympic athlete. This happened much sooner than anticipated. Do you know why? Did you guess? Yes! Hard work and work ethic. I was aiming for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and I ended up participating in the 2006 Torino Winter Games. A whole four years earlier than my original plan. For those who wonder, four years is a lifetime in figure skating. This was such an achievement for myself and my family.

Be yourself and shine as bright as you want. Boundaries should be invisible, and self-doubt should be illegal.

The only way you will stand out is to work with what you already have. We all have the right ingredients and a multitude of recipes. Know your worth, know your potential and if no one believes in you at least believe in yourself. We all face different obstacles. Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on yourself. You must be aware that you are the only person standing out there in the middle of the ice. Only you can understand all the hurdles, sacrifices and rough times. If you stay true to yourself through all of this, you will have a fantastic career and you will grow into the best possible person you can be. You have the power to make this happen.

Looking back on my past, I am proud I stayed true to myself. I am proud of the work ethic and the passion that I put into every moment of training. I want to continue reinventing myself and I want to continue sharing what I have learned these past few years.

I am by far the tallest 5’4” man in the world because I have realized success comes from standing tall.

Cirque du Soleil

Navigating Uncharted Territories for Skating

by Eric Radford, three-time Olympic medalist and member of the ISU Athlete Commission

I think it is safe to say that back at the beginning of the year, if someone had asked me what my summer was going to be like, I could have never imagined it would be like this. Even more unlikely, is that all the amazing moments I had envisioned involving the 2020 World Championships would disappear in a puff of pandemic. But here we are, and the skating world and I have forged onward into this new Covid era.

Sitting on the International Skating Union Athlete Commission during this time and watching as the ISU had to navigate a difficult and constantly changing health crisis was stressful. The most difficult part though, was watching my fellow athletes deal with the postponement of an Olympic Games and the uncertainty of the future of sporting events in general. How do you stay motivated when the target you are aiming for is longer in your sight? What about an athlete’s plans for after the Olympics? I guess they will just have to wait. The pandemic will add a whole new dimension to how athletes train and if they can create and carry the momentum needed to have their best performance at the upcoming Olympics.

Before the pandemic started, the Athletes’ Commission was focused on sustainability, development, and technical changes in our relative disciplines. We were also focused on how the viewership of our sport is changing and that maybe, new, and innovative ways were needed to expand and reach new viewers. Personally, the way I watch skating now is mostly online.  When I was younger it was always on television. The methods of reaching our fans need to be   re-evaluated and must evolve to ensure our sport has a place in the future.

Back inside the arena, we are settling into a new normal. Special entrances and exits in and out of arenas are used. Face masks are worn until a skater is on the ice. Limited numbers of skaters are allowed on the ice with or without coaches being allowed on the ice as well. But I know we are all thankful to be back there…on the ice or not. I began to dream about skating after a few months of quarantine. The moment I stepped back on the ice and got to feel the glide of my blades and the sound of the wind in my ears was amazing.

I continue to work on my transition out of competitive sport. One might think the most difficult time in an athlete’s life would be before a big competition. I would say the most difficult time is when the cheering goes quiet, the big dream has been achieved…or not, and the only thing left to think is “What’s next?”. I feel so fortunate to have music in my life and it has taken skating’s place as my next big dream. During quarantine, I had lots of time to explore my music and recently released my first electronic song “Golden Hour”. I will always keep my “foot in the door” with skating but I am so excited to take a different direction down the path of music.

As we head into this first Covid season of skating, things will feel different. It has been a difficult and tumultuous time for athletes. Their preparations for the season are most likely unlike any they have experienced before. There will not be any fans cheering in the crowd and no typical judging panel by the side of the ice, but the magic the skaters create will reach us, nonetheless.

“Inspiring all Canadians to embrace the joy of skating.”

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One thought on “Podcast: Marilyn Chidlow | Boland: Exceptional Volunteer | Sawyer: My Life Lessons | Radford: Navigating Uncharted Territories for Skating”

  1. Another great blog! Really got a good vibe and message from Shawn Sawyer’s article. It’s wonderful to read about someone who thinks positive and comes to terms with himself and his place in life. And, Eric and the pandemic and its implications! The Boland story shows how crucial volunteering is to the success of many an organization. What can I say! I enjoy all the blogs.

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