Olympic silver medalist figure skater Elizabeth Manley took her message on mental health to the Battlefords Saturday.
She spoke on the topic as the closing keynote speaker during the final session of the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association Conference at the Dekker Centre on Oct. 19.
Later that day, between 1 and 4 p.m., Manley did an event with Skate Battlefords at the Civic Centre where she did a presentation and some coaching of the young skaters in attendance.
During her remarks at the parks and recreation conference, Manley spoke of how she overcame mental illness and a nervous breakdown, as well as other challenges, to become an Olympic silver medalist.
She told the story of how she was on the verge of pulling out of the Calgary 1988 Olympics completely, with a 103 degree fever and pneumonia. But she took part in her practice session just prior to making the decision whether to compete. At that session the entire Canadian Olympic men‘s hockey team had come in to watch.
Manley said the coach of the men’s team, Dave King, came up to her afterwards and explained why the team was there.
He explained his team wasn’t practicing very well. King told her he felt the best thing he could do was pull them off the ice and make them watch a champion.
“Thanks for inspiring my team.”
She described this as a complete stranger to her, at a critical moment of her entire life, saying something positive.
“We don’t realize how powerful words are, and what words can do for people,” Manley said. “One positive great feeling, comment, from strangers or people can change a person’s life.”
Inspired by those words, Manley refused to pull out of the Olympics, and told the audience “12 hours later, this happened.”
She pulled out her Olympic silver medal.
Manley concluded her remarks by saying, while the colour was silver, she regarded it as her gold medal in life. Manley told the audience her story was one of perseverance and overcoming being told she couldn’t do it.
“Every single person, I believe, can have a medal in life,” said Manley. “Whether you’re suffering, whether a family member is suffering, whether a colleague at work is suffering, be there for them.”