RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Two-time Paralympic gold medallist Chelsey Gotell has been around the block enough times that she can help Team Canada in many ways, from words of advice to pre-game rituals.
The Antigonish, N.S. native, who has reached the podium 12 times – including winning at the 2004 and 2008 Games – is now serving her country as the Vice-Chair of the Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Council.
Apart from her official duties, the former world champion offers unique insights into what it means to be a former athlete, up to and including pre-game superstitions.
“There are some rituals,” said a laughing Gotell, standing at the Welcome Centre in the Olympic Village. “I used to slap my arm three times, before I got in the pool. There were others who wouldn’t change their sports bra until after their event was over.”
“It’s a pretty mixed bag, but anything they thought would help them win, they would do, even if it sounded silly to others.”
After her decorated career was over, Gotell felt working with Canadian athletes was what she wanted to do; she first dipped her toe in the pool of the front office in 2012, by signing on as the Athlete Services Officer for the London Games.
“It’s such an honour to wear Canada across your chest,” said Gotell, shortly after the flag raising ceremony. “I want to do anything I can to help our athletes succeed, and being a staff member is a huge part of it.”
Making the transition from athlete to staff member is not always easy, but the former para-swimmer has enjoyed her work so far; while she does not try and give too much advice based on her own career, the athletes do sometimes ask her opinion regardless.
“These people are high-performance athletes,” said Gotell. “They are very competitive, even with each other, and we all want them to succeed, so I will help them if they ask.”
Both the Olympics and Paralympics have been much maligned in the lead-up to the Games themselves, and in her capacity as a member of Team Canada’s staff, she has had nothing but positive words for Rio 2016.
“It has been talked about a lot,” said Gotell, outside of McDonalds in the Olympic Village. “We’ve been lucky, as the Rio Games organizers have worked pretty closely with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, so we’ve been able to utilize Canada’s resources to best serve our athletes.”