Movember Brady Leman Olympics
Road To The OlympicsImage by: Brady Leman
Movember Brady Leman Olympics
10 August 2021

Brady Leman's Road To The Olympics

6 minutes read time

What inspired you to become an athlete?

There wasn’t one thing that really inspired me to become an athlete. Growing up, all I wanted to do was play sports. I played ball hockey and soccer in the streets; I loved the competitiveness of cross-country running, the intensity of wrestling, and the feeling of being part of a team when playing volleyball. Although I loved all sports, the thing that I was best at and loved most was skiing.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them?

My career has never been smooth sailing. When I was younger, I was smaller than most of the other athletes, and it always seemed to take me an extra year or two to hit certain benchmarks other athletes my age were hitting. It was always a tough feeling when I was just scraping the minimum results needed to keep going in ski racing. Later in my career, the injuries started to come fast and heavy, the worst of which was breaking my leg the day before the race at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It was something I'll never forget.

Although my injury prevented me from competing in the 2010 Olympics, I knew that I hadn’t shown my best on the hill yet. Overcoming my injuries wasn’t easy, but I leaned on my support network of my family, friends, and the doctors and therapists to come back stronger than ever. I took my time and made sure that I wouldn’t race until my body and mind were 100%. I took almost a year and a half off of competition and it paid off when I won my first race back.

What are some strategies you’d recommend to someone who might be experiencing similar challenges in their life?

My advice is always to use all of the resources you have to their full potential. Sometimes that means really asking for help, or going out of your way to make sure you have everything that you need. Asking for help is a really uncomfortable feeling at first, but it's one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. Most of the time people are happy to help and just don't want to overstep. Aside from utilizing your resources, my main rule is to listen to your body. You may think you can power through it, but sometimes you are doing more harm than good.

How do you balance your personal life with the demands of competing at the Olympic level?

As an athlete you learn pretty early on how to prioritize things like training and competition. You need to have excellent time management or you won’t be able to fit everything into your day that you need to get done. I always put my training first, my friends and family know that about me. I make sure to give myself extra time to take care of the most important things, and then fill in the free time from there. I also make sure to build in breaks and gaps into my training.

People often see Olympians as these robot athletes, but that’s just not the case. You need to make time for your friends and family or else you’ll go insane trying to train 24/7 and isolating yourself on an island. I make sure to build in some off time where I can detach from skiing and totally chill out guilt-free. That also stokes the fire when I get back in the gym or on snow - feeling fresh and relaxed makes me want to really get after it when I get back to things.

You won a gold medal for Canada in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics - how did it feel to be representing Canada then and how does it feel now to be working your way to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics?

It was totally surreal to bring home a Gold in 2018. It was a good day to have a good day! I honestly still can't describe it in any way that does that day and the days that followed justice, it was just the best!

Preparing to defend at the 2022 Winter Olympics is a whole different feeling. It’s a mix of pressure and a huge lack of it all at once. Pressure in the sense that I am the defending Olympic champion and I know how hard it is to defend, which is something I am reminded of constantly. But at the same time there is a huge lack of pressure; I never dreamed I would actually have one gold medal, so what have I got to lose now? I can go compete and enjoy my next Olympic experience knowing that I have one medal under my belt already.

How do you mentally prepare to compete in the Olympics? What impact does competition have on your mental health and vice versa, your mental health on your performance?

It’s a long road to get to the games, and along that road you’ll have a million little or medium victories and defeats. Getting mentally ready is just making sure that every win or loss teaches you something. Staying present is super key at any competition, especially the Olympics. You cannot let the scale of the moment get to you, you have to stay focused on the next start or turn or jump or whatever it is. The second your mind flashes to the finish and that medal, or more often flashes to the what ifs of defeat, it's already over. You need to stay focused on the task at hand.

How did your crash in 2020 affect your mental health? How were you able to overcome those challenges?

My crash this past year was a really tough one mentally. I have never had a knee injury before this one, luckily I have always been more of a bone breaker, and bones heal way better than meniscus, tendons and ligaments. It was the uncertainty of the whole thing that affected me the most. Not knowing if I would need surgery, what the recovery timeline would look like, or even if I could come back from a knee injury at 34, which is like 81 in ski racer years! It honestly came down to my coaches, family, friends and medical staff. None of them shared any of my doubts and they all had full confidence in me. Their confidence made it easier to get started with rehab. I put my trust in them and the process they laid out. Naturally, as I put in the work and my injuries started to heal, my doubts began to fade.

After those injuries and challenges, how do you balance your mental health right now?

I am a big fan of mindfulness meditations. I find even taking 5 minutes to quiet the mind pays off huge. Also giving myself a few minutes each day for things that aren’t ski racing, school, or work. For me that’s my morning espresso and turning on SportsCentre!

How important do you think resilience is for an athlete?

Resilience, grit, determination, whatever you want to call it, is the single most important trait you can have as an athlete. Once you learn how powerful your resilience makes you, it's incredible the places that you can go.

Knowing what you know now and the experiences you went through, what would you say to your younger self?

Enjoy the ride!