Supporting Canadian Athletes

Nicole Forrester

2008 Olympian and six-time Canadian Champion, Nicole Forrester is training hard to jump her highest for Team Canada at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. After being discovered at the age of seventeen, Nicole leaped through the ranks to become Canada¡¯s top female high jumper and has medaled in the Pan American, Commonwealth, World University, and Francophone Games.

Nicole grew up in Cookstown, Ontario, a small town with a population of only 800. Throughout her early years, the pursuit of higher education was highly encouraged, while there was no particular emphasis on athletics.

Her introduction to high jump began at the age of seventeen while working at a McDonald’s restaurant. Dave Hunt, a track coach at the University of Toronto, spotted her and suggested that she try high jump. “He was taken by my long legs and asked to speak to me about learning how to high jump and the rest they say is history”, says Nicole. Her legs are an impressive 126 cm (66% of her height), and quite possibly the longest legs in Canada. “A lot of people started their sport much earlier, but not me, I was just at the right place at the right time”, she says.

Dave referred her to Carl Georgevski, a high jump coach at the University of Toronto, and within a year she was soaring to a height of 1.73m (5’7). A track club coach from the United Sates spotted Nicole in Ottawa and wanted to recruit her. “When I discovered I could get a scholarship for my high jumping my mom approached the University of Michigan”, explains Nicole. She went on to receive a full scholarship there and began training with James Henry. Demonstrating dedication and a commitment to excellence, Nicole further improved her personal best to 1.90m within her first year. Throughout her time at the university, she would prove to be one of their most prolific athletes. Helping to lead her athletics team to 3 conference titles, Nicole set a series of school and conference records, became a 5 -Time All-American, and gained recognition as a 1999 Big Ten Athlete winning five Big Ten titles.

“Since I was discovered at an age when most athletes are perfecting their skill and preparing for the Olympics, I had to train extra hard and focus all my energy on being the best I could possibly be”, says Nicole. During her first World Championship in 1999, she jumped the ‘magic number’ of 1.93 meters, a number that made her realize “maybe I can go to the Olympics!”.

Globally, Nicole is a Pan-American Games Silver and Bronze Medalist, World University Silver Medalist, Francophone Games Silver and Bronze Medalist and a Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist. Nationally, she is currently ranked number one, and has been thirteen times! “In a highly competitive sport where many try but few succeed, I hope that my drive and determination will inspire others to pursue their own excellence”, she says.

Nicole first became involved with athlete leadership when she attended the University of Michigan and served as the team captain for two years and student president for three. Some of her responsibilities included motivating her teammates, cultivating a team spirit inspired environment, leading by example, being accountable for her actions, and organizing team bonding events. She was also a member of the Student-Athletic-Advisory Committee (SAAC) as the track and field rep and the Michigan Peer Advisory Council Team (M-PACT) for 4 years.

Outside of school, Nicole was first introduced to AthletesCAN in 2000 when she missed qualifying for the Olympic team by 1cm. She had met the Olympic standard, but not the Canadian standard as they differed. “Looking back, it was a negative experience for me. In times like these you wonder ‘Who do you turn to?’ ‘How do I deal with this?’ The Canadian Sport Centre of Ontario suggested I call AthletesCAN for counsel and advice”.

Years later, Nicole attended the 2008 AthletesCAN Forum which she described as ‘awesome, really fun and exciting’. “It was the first time that I was in a room with so many different athletes, both winter and summer, and they were all fired up! We all train in our own little bubble so meeting athletes in other sports all representing Canada was an amazing experience. I asked myself why I didn’t do it sooner?” she explains. She also ran for a position on the AthletesCAN Board of Directors and was elected for a two year term (2008-2010). “I got involved with the Board because I wanted to make a difference by actively doing things. AthletesCAN has the ability to be a powerful voice in the sport system and I wanted to help to tap into that. It’s the only organization in Canada that offers services for ALL Canadian national team athletes. We need to realize that everyone in the sport community has a job because of us – US being the athletes – through AthletesCAN, we can unify our voice to be more powerful in what we are trying to achieve”, she says.

In addition to her involvement with AthletesCAN, Nicole was the athlete representative for Athletics from 2007 until 2009 and was involved with the Finance Committee, Competition Committee, and National Team Committee; is currently a member of the Planning Committee for the Canadian Olympic Committee; volunteers as a coach at the University of Michigan; is an ambassador for KidSport; and continues to support many different initiatives involving athlete social responsibility (ASR).

“Social responsibility is the idea of contributing to the welfare of society and community. It has the ability to create astounding possibilities and growth for all. As an athlete, I am especially passionate about being involved and giving back! We have all benefitted from the support of others at some point in our lives. I feel it is our duty to continue the spirit of giving¡­so together we will all be better from it”, says Nicole.

One of these ASR initiatives included Nicole organizing the 2009 CN Tower Stair Climb with a team of Canada’s top high performance athletes to raise awareness and funds for the United Way. Her goal for 2010 is to have 40 athletes participate and raise $12,000. Nicole also organized the donation of Team Canada Gear, which was generously donated and signed by athletes attending the 2009 AthletesCAN Forum, to Sick Kids teen athletes for the 2009 holiday season. At the 2010 AthletesCAN Forum she will be collecting books to donate to the Raise a Reader program and raise awareness for children’s literacy.

Nicole is also working on a partnership with the Underwear Affair, an organization that raises money for below the waist cancers; and is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC), the leading child and youth serving organization providing mentoring programs across the country. “It’s our duty as athletes to get involved! People look to us as leaders. We represent our country as a national team athlete so we are automatically put in that role. Anything we do may influence someone who is watching us”, says Nicole.

She is particularly passionate about ‘Run for the Cure’, a volunteer-led fundraising event dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research, and education and awareness programs. Every year she supports the run through donations and by encouraging other people to get involved. “I have always been a strong supporter because it can affect any of us in our lifetime and will affect somebody that we know. In 1980 there was a 30% survival rate from breast cancer and now there is a 70% survival rate – that shows how much the organization can help women by raising awareness, being proactive, and promoting early diagnosis”, says Nicole.

Nicole is looking forward to representing Canada at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. “Competing at the Commonwealth Games is one of my favourite team experiences, and I feel pride and honour anytime I don the Canadian uniform”, she says.

In order to train for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Nicole is changing her routine and training plan to peak later in the year. “I have an axe to grind since I didn’t have a great performance at the last Games. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t peak too early. I’m pretty hungry for the competition because it will be the last time I ever compete at the Commonwealth Games – I am retiring in 2012 after the London Olympics”, says Nicole.

Nicole has two goals for the Commonwealth Games: to win and to set a championship record.

Despite a rigorous and hectic training schedule, Nicole has continued to pursue her education. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Movement Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Management & Communication at the University of Michigan. Nicole also has a Master’s of Education in Exercise & Sports Psychology from the University of Texas. She is currently a PhD candidate, in Sports Psychology at Michigan State University.

Who ever said you can’t do it all and still be successful?

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