Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe
Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard delivers a keynote speech to hundred of students the Alberta Student Leadership Conference at Lacombe Composite High School on Tuesday morning. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)You don’t win silver, you lose the gold is a notion former Canadian curler and Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard isn’t a fan of.
Kick-started by a controversial Nike ad campaign in 1996, it implies anything less than gold should come with feelings of regret, missed opportunities and failure, something Bernard has made the conscious decision to refute.
A keynote speaker at the Alberta Student Leadership Conference (ASLC) hosted by Lacombe Composite High School, she spoke to around 600 students from across the province on resiliency, attitude and choosing how to view life experiences.
Naturally, the focus was on one of her biggest experiences in Vancouver 2010, where her final shot in the extra end didn’t curl the way she’d expected and her team missed the gold by mere millimetres.
“I really am a big believer in perspective and learning from losses,” Bernard said.
“I told them the one quote – when I competed it hung on my mirror for years – and it said ‘I never lose, I either win or I learn.’ I honestly think if you can approach life that way and don’t have everything built around being an athlete or winning, but around the experience, the journey is pretty incredible.”
Losses and failures, she said, are inevitable. It’s how one chooses to deal with them that builds resiliency and defines leadership. While athletes are recognized when they land on the podium, there are many struggles, and failures that lead up to their success.
“There’s very few people in life that glide from achievement to achievement and you’re going to fail along the way. I think the people who are successful learn from that and they come out of that with some resilience and grit and perspective. Those are the people you see stand on podiums and run major corporations,” she said.
“I think the difference between me and someone else who doesn’t make it, is they couldn’t handle those losses, or they thought that no one else failed and the minute they do they’re done. That’s not the way it is. Those are learning moments, it’s part of the journey.”
Athletes can be fortunate to win, but sometimes, they’re lucky enough not to win, she said, and grow stronger as a person.
Vancouver 2010 proved to be that kind of experience for Bernard, and once that resonated with people across the country.
Sometime after the game, the team had been in Tim Hortons when an employee recognized who they were and began singing O Canada. Soon, fellow employees and customers joined in to serenade Team Bernard.
It was a moment she said she’d never forget, and ASLC attendees added to by breaking into the national anthem themselves following her speech.
“When they sang O Canada I was in tears,” she said. “Alberta’s in a very good place with kids like this leading, wanting to be involved, wanting to step forward, lead and learn and take care of themselves and their community.
“We’re fortunate to have that and I think when you see a group of kids like that sharing and teaching each other it becomes so powerful.”
Next year, the Alberta Student Leadership Conference will be hosted by Bert Church in Airdrie, Alta. May 27-29, 2018.
Michel Chikwanine, a child soldier who was forced to kill a friend at just five years old, was another keynote speaker during the conference.
Sharing some of his experiences, he drove home the need for leaders to have empathy and the kind of heart that emboldens them to stand up for others and make a difference.
Actor and comedian Gery Schubert was also a speaker during the event.