It was in Athens in 2004 that Kyle Shewfelt turned in one of the greatest performances in Canadian sports history with his victory on Floor Exercise, becoming the first Canadian Olympic champion in Artistic Gymnastics. This exploit, his engaging personality and commitment to the sport both on and off the field of play led the organising committee and the International Gymnastics Federation to select him as the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Ambassador for the 2017 World Championships in Montreal.
What does it mean for you to be an Artistic Gymnastics Ambassador for the 2017 World Championships in Montreal?
“This is a great honour. I have been in love with gymnastics ever since I watched the 1991 Worlds on TV. I am delighted to play a role in these Championships and I know that they will make a big impact on future generations. Having the opportunity to see their favourite gymnastics stars competing live in person or at home on TV will inspire them immensely.”
What has this sport brought to your life?
“Gymnastics is one of the most important things in my life and the sport has brought me so many powerful experiences and friendships. While I was a competitor, I loved the fire I felt inside while chasing my Olympic dream. I can still close my eyes and imagine that magical day in Athens when my Olympic dream came true.
Now, I love owning a gymnastics centre and being able to make a positive impact in my community through this avenue. I also really enjoy providing gymnastics commentary for television – I feel a huge responsibility to educate viewers and to shine a spotlight on the gymnasts and coaches who work so hard for those special moments.
Gymnastics has been a constant in my life since I was six years old and cartwheeling around the kitchen. It has now provided me an opportunity to support my family and build community and I can’t imagine my life or my future without this sport. Handstands make me happy!”
If you could relive one moment in your Gymnastics career, what would it be and why?
“My absolute favourite moment in my career was when I ran off the floor after my floor routine in Athens and hugged my coach, Kelly Manjak. It was a powerful moment because it was full of joy, a sense of relief and a feeling of achievement. We didn’t know the score or the final result, but we knew that I had delivered my BEST routine in the moment when it mattered the most. I don’t really remember being on the podium that day and getting my medal, that is all a blur, but I will never forget that feeling of gratitude and excitement I felt after I nailed the best routine of my life.”
Of all the advice you were given as a gymnast, is there one thing that has really stuck with you and made a difference for you?
“Focus on the performance, not the outcome. Gymnastics is a sport where you have no control over the external factors – you can’t control the judges, the equipment, the audience, the expectations, your fellow competitors or the final result. All you can control is your thoughts, your actions and your performance. Sometimes I had great routines and didn’t get the final result I wanted, but I was taught to always search for an inner sense of self satisfaction. My coach always said, ‘If you know that you did everything you could do to be the best you could be, then you can’t be disappointed.’ I seek excellence in everything I do and I think that being involved in gymnastics taught me this.”
What would you tell a young child who dreams of being an Olympic Gymnastics champion?
“First, I would say make sure you surround yourself with amazing people who will support you, will protect you and will never question your audacious dream! They need to let you be the one in charge of driving the bus, but they are ready to help when you need it.
Secondly, I would say to study and emulate your idols. Watch the way they train, watch the way they compete and watch the way they perform. Try to be like them, but add your own personal style.
And thirdly, show up to training each day with a plan and measure your progress and work. The key to making big dreams a reality is staying motivated. Having evidence that your efforts and commitment is paying off will help you stay positive and focused during those hard times.