Episode #21: Rhiannon Leier Blacher
38:28 | Dec 14, 2020
Inspired by the 1984 Olympics, Rhiannon started swimming at a club in Saskatoon at age seven. Her career would go on to span 27 years and include two Olympic Games and several national team appearances. But it almost did not happen. There were two occasions when Rhiannon wanted to leave swimming, and both turned out to be huge turning points.
The first, when she was 12, she stepped away and tried different sports and did different things, but she realized she missed swimming. This was a turning point because it was then that she realized that she was not swimming because of any outside influences; she was swimming because she wanted to be there. Her performance improved from then on, she qualified for nationals and she went to the University of Miami on a swimming scholarship. The second was not about quitting, but retirement. In 1999 her NCAA career was ending. Her coach from Winnipeg suggested that she could make the 2000 Olympic team if she dedicated herself to the year of preparation. Prior to that she says she never really believed she was good enough to make the national team – her best national ranking was fourth and to make the Olympic team you had to be top two with a qualifying time (she was almost 2 seconds off). Of this discussion she says, “ I think it was one of those things where, inside of me, it was always where I wanted to end up but I never really had anybody that said, “I believe you can.” And it was that little nudge, and it wasn't a hard for him to nudge me because it was something I'd always really wanted. Really, in the end, it is just that belief that already the talent was there. I just needed someone to find it and fine tune it.”
Rhiannon’s success came through hours of hard work, a focus on the process, not the outcome and battles with vulnerability and emotional exhaustion. Now retired, she gives back by supporting current athletes as they navigate the emotional and physical loads that elite sport places on them. She recommends that whatever the options are in front of you to just go for it and give it a chance, but go all in – don’t do anything half assed.
Please enjoy our Heroes conversation with Rhiannon Leier Blacher.