Christian: In today’s interview I’m joined by Jamie Salé. Jamie is Olympic Champion, 2002. Her further achievements, if Olympic Champion is not enough, World Champion in 2001, Skate Canada Hall of Famer, Canadian Olympic Hall of Famer, and many more things.
Jamie: Thank you very much. It’s so nice to meet you.
What the sport of figure skating is and the difference between individual skating and pair skating
Christian: Jamie, can you explain to us in a few words what your sport is about? That is the first question, and the second question, you were a good individual skater, but you were an excellent pair skater. What is the difference between the two?
Jamie: In figure skating, you start out very general and you are really just learning to skate. And I know that around the world, that’s the typical program that you go through and everybody starts out as a single skater.
For me personally, when I was watching TV and I loved figure skating. I really was attracted to watching the pair skaters. We call them pair skaters, but people might see them as doubles. And I thought it looked really fun.
So by the age of 12 years old, I was inquiring about doing this. So that’s what led me into pair skating. It’s really, really important that you’re a strong single skater to be a great pair skater because you still do individual jumps that are side by side and you spin side by side, so you need to be really strong in those elements as well.
It’s really important that you’re a strong single skater to be a great pair skater.
So I kept doing singles until I reached the Olympic level with my second partner, David [Pelletier]. That was when we had to focus on just pair skating and that’s where it took me to the Olympic level.
Christian: What always amazed me about your sport, you guys have to do these amazing athletic feats, but on top of that, you have to be nice, gracefully and attractive. How do you do that?
Jamie: Yes, that’s a very interesting observation because for the men in our sport, especially for David anyway, my personal experience was, that was a struggle for him. Because he’s lifting 110-pound woman around the ice for four and a half minutes and he’s got to have a smile on his face.
When he gets frustrated even, men typically like to show their frustration. A hockey player can hit another guy on the ice or football players, they smash into each other. Whatever it is, they can express their frustration, whereas, in figure skating, you can’t show that.
It’s not proper. It’s not part of our etiquette. There’s a lot of fluffiness to figure skating. We understand that. We know that. That was definitely something that was really challenging for David.
Men typically like to show their frustration. A hockey player can hit another guy on the ice or football players, they smash into each other. Whatever it is, they can express their frustration, whereas, in figure skating, you can’t show that. It’s not proper. It’s not part of our etiquette.
But he learned that it was just part of performing and impressing the judges to make it always look like it’s effortless. Even when we were making mistakes that we pretended to not make a mistake.
It’s training, it’s years of training and literally practicing the way you compete. On practices, I would always pretend I had an audience and I would always be smiling or I’d literally look up to the audience.
It’s years of training and literally practicing the way you compete. On practices, I would always pretend I had an audience and I would always be smiling up to the audience.
Seven o’clock in the morning in a cold arena, it wasn’t so fun, but I visualized having people there and performing to them all the time. So it’s just training and getting used to it.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your life as an athlete, your darkest moment, I can imagine because you guys kind of were victims and you change the history of the sport. What was your darkest moment?
Jamie: I’ve had many dark moments. There were three years between my first partner and skating with David – the partner that I won the Olympics with – and those were very dark years.
I remembered just really believing in my deepest gut that I really was just being patient and hoping and praying that a new partner would come along because partners aren’t easy to find and especially really good ones. I wanted to go back to the Olympics, but I didn’t want to just be an Olympian. I wanted to be on the podium.
I wanted to go back to the Olympics, but I didn’t want to just be an Olympian. I wanted to be on the podium.
Finding that partner, that’s going to get me there was not exactly an easy task. It didn’t seem to be happening. One year went by, a second-year went by, and then the third year, and I fell into what I would call like an athlete depression.
I was messing up. I wasn’t showing up on time to train. I just started really going backward because I was feeling sorry for myself and just really sad.
There were days as much as I said, I pulled it out of my – I call it the “fire in my belly” when you really want something, I had that deep down inside, but I struggled a lot of days to find it because I just was getting frustrated that it wasn’t happening.
Fortunately, I didn’t give up and then David and I saw each other at Nationals and I phoned him and told him that I think we need to make this a goal because we’re perfectly matched. We had already tried out previously, so we knew that things were really great between us; the chemistry was there.
So that was literally kind of a make it or break it moment for both of us. It was like, we either do this or we’re both done because we were getting older. I know that sounds terrible, but at 18 and 20 years old, we were already starting to get old.
It was a make it or break it moment for both of us, we either do this or we’re both done.
Christian: And what year was that?
Jamie: 1998, we started skating together, and four years later, we went to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Four short years, it’s not very long for a team, but we were both at the pinnacle of our sport. It was just a matter of getting us together with the right coach and the right tools and ingredients. And we took off.
The first year was a little bit of a struggle because there were injuries and whatnot and we had to pull out of going to the World Championships, but the following year, the second year we were together, we were nailing it.
We won something like nine out of 12 competitions that we entered, I can’t remember my stats, but it was pretty high. And so from that second year on, we were on a roll and setting ourselves up for the Olympics.
Christian: And then what did you learn from that moment?
Jamie: What I really learned from my dark days was not to give up. That was proof of having a vision of where you want to be in your life or really what you want to do and accomplish.
What I really learned from my dark days was not to give up. That was proof of having a vision of where you want to be in your life.
I had many, many challenges and conditions, I call them conditions or circumstances, that was not ideal that I had to face. I just didn’t give up because I believed and deep down, I believed in myself and I wanted it really badly.
It’s normal that people have dark days, weeks, months, or even years, as I did. But I always tell my clients, if what you’re going for is really what you love, what you would love to have, then you never quit. That’s the biggest question I get asked, is how do you know when to quit? You don’t. You don’t quit.
The biggest question I get asked, is how do you know when to quit? You don’t. You don’t quit.
Christian: That’s a good one. I always think if it’s something you really love, it never really feels like work, so you would do it anyway. Of course, everyone has to pay his bills. So, that is clear, so you have to put food on the table. But in a way, if it’s your passion, work and hobby it all becomes the same thing, right?
Jamie: Agreed. And I’ve always felt that way when I was training that the hard days were hard, as you can imagine. Anybody that is even just at work, when you’re struggling in your business, or even in your home life, the days are challenging to get through, but you’ve got to speak positively to yourself and know that there’s going to be a breakthrough soon. You just have to keep telling yourself that.
You’ve got to speak positively to yourself and know that there’s going to be a breakthrough soon. You just have to keep telling yourself that.
So all I knew to be as positive or at least trying to be positive and see the good in those dark times when I was really struggling. Fortunately, I surrounded myself with really great people who were supportive and spoke that language to me all the time.
“Jamie, you’re gifted. You’re talented. You keep going. We believe in you. You can do this”, just constant positive affirmations, which is really helpful. Like I said to you, you’re going to have a lot of conditions or situations that are not pretty or un-ideal.
But you want to be around people who aren’t going to believe in those conditions. They’re going to believe in the power that’s breathing you to get through it.
The 2002 Olympic figure skating scandal
Christian: And talking about dark moments, I actually expected you would talk about that incident at the Salt Lake City Olympics. So in 2002, with your back against the wall, you were going into the final and everyone thought you would come out on top, but then you became second.
And from the research I’ve done, there was a scandal that some of the judges kind of gave the opponent a point in exchange for a point in a different competition for a different event. Talk us through it.
Jamie: Exactly. There was a bit of a tradeoff. At the Olympics in figure skating, you’ve got men’s, ladies, singles and then you’ve got ice dance and you have pairs. So there are four disciplines.
The real trade-off was that on the pairs judging panel, out of the nine judges, there was a French judge, but not a Russian judge. In ice dance, there was a Russian judge, but not a French judge.
The French ice dance team was the team that was supposed to win. That’s what they wanted. And they wanted the Russians to win in the pairs event. So they didn’t have their own judges, but they had the opposite, the French and the Russians, so they swapped – I’ll vote for your team if you vote for mine.
On top of that in the pairs event, they somehow rallied four other countries to be on their side. So it was really a bizarre event. We’re always warned that weird things or interesting things happen at the Olympics.
In all events, somebody who’s supposed to win could totally completely choke and end up 20th when they’re normally winning everything. In figure skating, we’ve seen a skater be seventh in the short program, win the long program, and win the whole thing overall. It has happened. It is bizarre, but it happens.
So when I was set, I was told that interesting things happened at the Olympics. Then I went through that experience of the scandal, which we found out as soon as we were skating around with our silver medals and the flowers in our hands, the word was out. Everyone was talking that there was a judging scandal.
As soon as we were skating around with our silver medals and the flowers in our hands, the word was out. Everyone was talking that there was a judging scandal.
It was then that I thought to myself that hearing that weird things could happen was an understatement. So from that day on, the next six days was an absolute media frenzy. We were on TV and on the cover of magazines and everybody was just talking about it all the time and it really took over the Olympics. It was the story of that Olympics for the first six or seven days.
- Check out this short summary of the 2002 Olympic figure skating scandal
What happened was the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, told the ISU, which is the International Skating Union, that they needed to fix their sport and make it right because it was taking over the Olympics.
So the ISU gave us a cold gold medal to basically make everyone quiet and so we share a medal with the Russians. They don’t take their medal away because as a skating team themselves, they were not the ones that were in the scandal. So we just share a gold medal with the Russians.
Why they got awarded two gold medals at the 2002 Olympic Games
Christian: The question I had, why two gold medals instead of just putting one team on top?
Jamie: Yes, so at the Olympics or pretty much in sport in general, unless the athlete themselves has been found to cheat, then they’re stripped of their medals. But in this circumstance, that wasn’t the case. It was a judging situation and the skaters were the victims of it.
Unless the athlete themselves has been found to cheat, then they’re stripped of their medals. But that wasn’t the case. It was a judging situation and the skaters were the victims of it.
That’s why they were allowed to keep their medal and they just decided to give us a second gold medal. We actually had to return our silver medal, which was kind of bizarre because we got somehow attached to those things. We had it for the first six days and then they said that we needed to give it back.
We asked them who they were giving them to because they literally had our names on them. In a press conference during those six days, they wanted us to always speak and the Russians would never come. So we would go and we’d sit and we’d try to be funny.
I remember when they told us we were getting a gold medal, David said that all we needed was a bronze and we’d have a complete set of medals. But then they took our silver away, so yes, so we have a gold medal.
But I have a better story for you that I want to share with your people because this is very cool as a Canadian. During those six days, there was a group from Western Canada – Calgary, Alberta to be exact – they decided that it wasn’t okay that David and I had a silver medal and they were unaware that we were going to be given one gold medal by the ISU.
So they collected gold jewelry from across Canada and when David and I got home and we had a homecoming skating show, they presented these solid gold medals to David and me
Jaime Sale Jamie Sale gold medal
with our picture on the front in gold.
It’s a picture from our long program a love story. Then on the back is an English and French saying about us as Canadian athletes. It was just so incredibly moving and touching for us that our country was supporting in that capacity because I’ve never seen that before.
So we got these Olympic medals, which were great, but we came home and our country gave us these incredible gold medals that were made by the citizens of Canada.
Christian: That is really cool.
Jamie: Isn’t that special?
Christian: Yes, that is really cool.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Jamie: So one, there’s the medal that Canada made, I just talked about. There’s the front with us and then there’s the back with the saying that a medal can never relay the spirit of Canadians or how much you deserve their support. You’re an inspiration and a source of pride. You have displayed the best of the Canadian spirit.
I would say we’ve had quite a few great moments in our career. We had the World Championships that we won on home soil in Vancouver. That was really exciting for us to have to step onto the ice and have the whole arena erupt for us because they were Canadians and cheering for us.
That was a really neat experience. It’s not often an athlete performs or competes in their home country, not for us anyway, on a world stage. So that was a really, really cool moment for both of us.
And then of course at the Olympic Games 2002, because of the pressure that you’re at or feeling and to be able to execute and deliver the perfect program at that moment on that day, it’s really hard, and that makes it so special. When I was skating my program, I just remember thinking that I’d worked all those years on not just being physically perfect on the ice, but mentally as well.
Because of the pressure that you’re at during the Olympic Games 2002 and to be able to execute and deliver the perfect program at that moment on that day, it’s really hard, and that makes it so special.
I told myself that when I got to that last skate of my life or my career that I’d just press autopilot, as you’d literally go on autopilot and just execute and that’s exactly what I did. So I found that very profound that I worked so many years psychologically to get that and I did it.
Not only did I technically perform well, but I mentally executed, which was really amazing. It’s so easy to get distracted at the Olympics when you’ve got other competitors and where you’ve got coaches staring at you.
There’s a lot of, I don’t want to say psyching out, but there was a lot of opportunity for other people, like competitors, to upset people. So you got to learn to stay focused and really just tunnel vision where you’re going and what you’re about to do. And David and I did that really well that day. So I’m proud of that.
Christian: Really cool. You said it was your last skate. Did you know you were going to retire after the Olympics?
Jamie: We figured that we were likely going to. Again, we weren’t old, but we were getting older because I was 24 and David was 26. And especially after we got our gold medal there and the story was so big, we figured that we’re probably best to turn professional on a high.
We’ve won European Championships and now we have an Olympic gold medal. Those are two really great attributes and rewards to be able to have a great professional career.
My goal was always to turn professional on a high and not end up declining. We both felt that it was the right time. Then we had a great 10 years as professionals.
My goal was always to turn professional on a high and not end up declining.
Christian: And as professional, you cannot participate in the Olympic games, is that correct?
Jamie: Well, it’s different today. Before when you were professional, you weren’t allowed to compete at the Olympics. And then in 1994, they allowed the professionals to come back and compete at the Olympic Games.
But now today you’re allowed to tour. They call it touring with stars on ice and there are tours in Europe as well. You’re allowed to do these tours and still compete if you can make it happen, so it keeps changing.
It doesn’t feel like there’s much of a difference between a professional skater and an amateur skater anymore. As an amateur, you can tour and make money, which before that wasn’t a thing. You could not do that. Once you were touring, you were considered a professional, but now you can do both.
The differences between Olympic skating and professional skating
Christian: Yes. I think, Katerina Witt did the same. After the 1988 Olympics, she turned professional.
Jamie: Then she came back in 1994.
Christian: This is one thing I never understood. I heard her talking about it in an interview. She said she came back in 1994, but the sport has changed so much that she was not competitive anymore. Is the Olympic skating much more difficult than the professional skating?
Jamie: Oh yes, a hundred percent. The difference between amateur and professional is the technical side of it. When you turn professional, you’re a performer now. So in the touring where was touring in North America as well, she got to skate with Scott Hamilton, Kurt Brown, and Kristi Yamaguchi and all these incredible icons.
She experienced that the professional side is much more about performing and not so technical. People in the audience, they love seeing you do tricks, especially in pairs and backflips for the single skaters, but it’s really about performing. The kind of programs that you do is significantly different than when you’re competing.
When you’re an amateur, it’s all about the jumps and spins and your footwork and all these technical things in your program. Those are not as important as professionals. It’s a different type of program.
The professional side is much more about performing and not so technical. When you’re an amateur, it’s all about the jumps and spins and your footwork and all these technical things in your program. It’s a different type of program.
You can do anything like a pro, but you definitely don’t need to be doing all the big triples as a single skater. However, when she went to the Olympics, she was competing against these girls who were doing all of the triples that exist and I believe she was still doing what she had done when she had won the Olympics.
So these girls had surpassed her and were doing harder triples, I think. So that’s hard. But they’re all so much younger too. There’s a thing about being younger.
But she’s still one of everybody’s favorites and she’s such a beautiful person and a beautiful skater and I always enjoyed touring with her. She was such a pleasure.
Christian: Yes. I guess I was never too much into figure skating, but as a German, you kind of knew her name and we’ve all watched her. And without knowing anything about the sport, you could always see, she made it look so effortless.
Jamie: She was strong and confident, and that’s what I really liked about her skating too. Yes, she wasn’t bad to look at either.
Her advice to a younger Jamie Salé
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15, 20 years, what advice would you give a younger Jamie?
Jamie: That’s interesting. I always had a lot of positive feedback and encouragement, but what I really struggled with as a younger Jamie was I was bullied in school for my haircut, for the clothes that I wore, for anything.
If I went to a skating competition and my town had an article in the paper that teachers would put up and it would be attacked. People would stick things in my eyes or scratched me out and I was bullied a lot. So I really struggled with that.
I remember going home from school probably at least two days a week, crying and really feeling like I don’t want to go back. I would hide at lunchtime in the bathroom or in the library because I never wanted to go outside. What are they going to say to me now?
I was bullied in school, I really struggled with that. I would hide at lunchtime in the bathroom or in the library because I never wanted to go outside.
So if I could say something to my younger self, it would just be that hurt people, hurt people. The reason why they’re doing this and saying these things to you is because they’re hurting. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
I would just give that younger Jamie strength, knowing that, but you don’t think like that when you’re 15 years, and you don’t think that you’ll just let it go because people are struggling. You feel horrible inside and you’re scared. So I would have supported my younger self a little bit better in that and I would have just gotten myself through it probably a little easier.
Christian: Do you think that also made you stronger?
Jamie: Absolutely, a hundred percent. When people ask me that question, I also say, but I have no regrets because everything that I’ve been through was character building and it has made me the person I am today.
But I tell you what? It was awful. Talk about darkness! There were days, it was really hard for me, but I felt like what I was gifted and very fortunate to have an outlet to express myself and feel like I was free and not judged.
It was awful. Talk about darkness! But I have no regrets because everything that I’ve been through was character building and it has made me the person I am today.
This is funny because figure skating is a judged sport. But when I would get on the ice every day to practice, nobody was making fun of me out there and I could express myself to music and I had fun out there. I felt incredibly free and I loved it.
So that was my outlet, where a lot of kids today don’t have that outlet. They come home and then they’re bullied on social media and then they got to go to school again the next day.
So we didn’t have any of that stuff when I was growing up, thankfully. But again, just being really grateful that I had an outlet to be able to escape from the sadness of being bullied.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete or person?
Jamie: Habits? I like that. For me, it’s really about deciding what you want, because once you make a decision and you can start taking action. For me, it was my first Olympics and then after that, I wanted to go to the Olympics and be on the podium.
Now, in this time of my life, it’s about my coaching. But I make a decision and then I start taking action. So I feel like being consistent and always taking action, always moving forward, even if you’re being set back a bit and you’re facing a challenge, it’s always asking yourself “What can I do today with where I’m at with what I’ve got?”
Being consistent and always taking action, always moving forward, even if you’re being set back a bit and you’re facing a challenge, it’s always asking yourself “What can I do today with where I’m at with what I’ve got?”
Passion is another one. I’m very passionate. For me, one of the biggest habits that I’ve created for myself is really just that constant, positive feedback or affirmations every single day. It’s easy to have fear come into our heads and talk to us and tell us we can’t do it and give us all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t.
But I keep telling myself if that’s where I’m going, I’m doing it anyway. I’m going to overcome fear. I’m going to overcome these crappy thoughts that I’m having. So that’s a really good habit to get into is just staying positive with yourself and using that language.
What does it mean to be a dreamer
Christian: I read on your website, you are a fellow dreamer. What does it mean to be a fellow dreamer, for you?
Jamie: Since I was a little girl, I was always saying that I was going to places, and I was going to be on the podium at the Olympics one day, and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. My mom, my family and my coaches, all used to tell me to keep dreaming. I usually just say okay.
For me, dreaming never ends. Maybe dreaming is a fluffy word for a lot of people, but let’s call it a destination. Having a vision; where do you want to be? How do you see yourself? Where do you see yourself in three to five to 10 years from now? What would you absolutely love in your life?
It doesn’t matter how old you are, having goals and a dream should never end.
So I’m still dreaming. I’m still visioning of where I see myself for the next 20 years even of my life. Then now, it’ll be a different phase, but it doesn’t matter how old you are. Having goals and a dream should never end.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Jamie: Yes. I have two children. So we are up every morning, at least by 7:00 AM and we make breakfast together and we make their lunches together. I would say that’s our Monday to Friday routine and then weekends, we are busy with activities.
My children are both athletes. My son’s in [ice] hockey, which is a big sport here in Canada. Most boys here play hockey.
Christian: He has a good mentor in the family.
Jamie: Yes, he does. Yes, my husband [Craig Simpson] won two Stanley Cups in the NHL. So he knows what he’s talking about and his dad was my partner and is now coaching the Edmonton Oilers in their power skating. So he’s very connected as well with the elite hockey players here in Canada.
So, Jesse, our son is in good hands with his coaching for sure. Our daughter is into gymnastics and skating a little bit, but mostly she’s a performer. So we’re thinking of musical theater, acting, somewhere around there.
For us, it was really about putting the kids in a bunch of different sports or activities, getting them to feel out what they like and then they make a decision at a certain age what they really want to do. But morning routine, it’s the kids. Pretty basic, but it’s what everybody does, right?
I’m just post-surgery right now, so I’m not able to do very much for workout, but usually, when I’m healthy, I go for a workout in the morning, whether it’s something super physical or I go do yoga.
Of course, I’m a coach during the day. Meditation is a big part of my day as well. It’s really important, at least once a day, to be calm and still and so I then implement that into my daily routine.
Christian: And the affirmations you mentioned earlier, when do you put them into the day?
Jamie: Well, you know what? I’m a very positive person by nature, so for me, it’s more when I’m being challenged with something. If something, maybe hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would, or I’ve got a big speech coming up and all of a sudden I’ll have all this talk in my head saying that I should cancel it or I’m not ready for that or I’m not good enough and I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’ll have all these thoughts and they’re fear-based thoughts. I used to call it the devil sitting on my shoulder, talking to me. So now what I do when I’m hearing those things, is I literally say out loud, “I’m doing it anyway. I’m doing this anyway. I don’t care if you think I’m not ready, I’m going to do it anyway.”
I have all these thoughts and they’re fear-based thoughts. So now what I do when I’m hearing those things, is I literally say out loud, “I’m doing it anyway. I’m doing this anyway. I don’t care if you think I’m not ready, I’m going to do it anyway.”
That’s how it was when I was skating when I was afraid to compete because maybe I wasn’t perfectly ready yet for a certain competition. So I said all those things out loud. You have to. So now it’s so easy to bail out of a speech if you’re being asked to talk at something.
You can tell them that you don’t know and give them a reason, but you can actually cancel things like that. Or even just say no, because you’re afraid that you’re not going to be good at it. Now I’m saying yes, and I’m doing them. Just do it.
You get better at it. Just like you’re interviewing. I’m sure when you first started, you were scared to death of your first interview and you weren’t sure how you’re going to do it, but you just did it and now you’ve gotten better and better and better at it. And you’re comfortable.
Christian: More or less. I am, but yes, it’s like everything, right? You know better than me. It’s practice, practice, practice.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Jamie: Well, again, the same thing. For me, as a skater, it was putting in not just time, so it’s not quantity, but it was quality. Our coaches were really focused on you don’t just step on the ice and skate around uselessly for an hour.
It was all about what’s your plan? So we always had a plan, every single session and we executed that plan. If we had extra time, then we would do whatever we wanted. But the key is to always have a plan of exactly what you’re going to do even just for the day; have your schedule.
The key is to always have a plan of exactly what you’re going to do.
For me also, it’s repetition and they always say practice makes perfect. One trainer said to me, “Jamie, perfect practice makes perfect”. Because if you’re practicing and you’re making the same mistakes all the time, you’re never going to be perfect.
I know the saying is really talking about the more you practice, the more you get there. But when you eventually can learn to practice perfect, that’s when you execute perfectly, because your mind, then your mind now believes you can do it. Like I said to you earlier, you go into autopilot and your muscle memory knows what to do when you have to do it.
So it’s the same for me as a coach now when I’m doing my talks or I have a speaking engagement, I practice that talk over and over and over again. I do it as if I have an audience in front of me.
I don’t just walk around the house half pretending like I’m going to speak to somebody. I actually deliver it like I have an audience in front of me. I just feel it’s really helpful. It’s the same way I train like an athlete and so far I’ve had great success with it.
They always say practice makes perfect. One trainer said to me, “Jamie, perfect practice makes perfect”.
Christian: Yes, the practice thing is an interesting one. People always say practice, but there’s also that term deliberate practice and actually practice needs to be deliberate, otherwise, you can do your 10,000 hours of excellence, but if it’s not deliberate, you won’t be excellent.
Jamie: Exactly. That’s a very good word and deliberate meaning having that plan, like this is what I’m doing.
How they had to bring out a flawless performance in the last free skate during the Olympic final 2002
Christian: So digging into the preparation for important moments, in that Olympic final, 2002, you were with your back against the wall and you had to bring out a flawless performance in the last free skate. So how do you prepare for that if you know anything less than perfect is not good enough? How do you stay calm?
Jamie: Not by having that kind of dialogue in my head. If I don’t skate perfectly, then I’m in trouble. It’s again, literally just visualizing ourselves, being on the ice for that long program, skating it perfectly.
I can’t tell you how many times your program will run through your head. I’ve talked to so many athletes and whether you’re bobsled or you’re hockey or your speed skating, whatever you’re doing, athletes in general, most athletes that I know anyway, that are successful, have the incredible ability to see themselves executing from start to finish. That’s not easy.
Most athletes that are successful, have the incredible ability to see themselves executing from start to finish.
I know we always say visualize yourself. It’s not easy to see yourself go from A to Zed, at all. So when I got to that point leading up to the Olympics, when I could do that, and I saw us standing on the podium and our flag coming down in the middle and singing “Oh, Canada” with everybody in the arena. I was seeing all of that before.
So I just kept doing that leading up to the long program and we had a great short program. I just knew that I was ready, but then I had a really horrible collision with the Russians on our warm-up. And it was an accident on both parts.
I was coming around the other end of the ice and I thought the Russians were going to be going diagonally down the ice, but they ended up doing a different pattern. It was more of an S pattern. And we met and collided on the blue line.
- Check out the accident during the warm-up
It was such a shock because they weren’t expecting it. They thought I was going somewhere else and I thought they were going somewhere else. But boom! There we were. I was laying on the ice and holding my stomach.
Fortunately, none of us got really badly hurt, but I sure felt terrible the next day. It was like I’d been hit by a Mack truck because I ran into both of them as a team. But somehow I got off the ice and our coach just said that we should go to our own corner and stay focused.
I kept visualizing myself being okay and focusing on my breathing and we could hear them skating because they skated before us. We heard the crowd react to a mistake. So naturally you’re not wanting to focus on what’s happening on the ice because you got to focus on what you’re about to do.
But when you hear that you tell yourself that the door’s now open. That’s just the nature of competition. You don’t wish badly for anybody. May the best man win.
I kept visualizing myself being okay and focusing on my breathing and we could hear the crowd react to a mistake and we told ourselves that the door’s now open.
But when we heard that audience react, we’re thinking that the door is now opened. So we just need to execute the best we can because the Russians are hard to beat. They’re so good and they almost always skated flawlessly. So they were a tough team to beat.
How she adopted a “no stone unturned” approach
Christian: I’ve seen an interview and I thought that was really interesting. You guys adopted a “no stone unturned” approach where you looked at all the elements to maximize performance and you even went so far to take people out of your life, such as acquaintances who were a negative influence, right?
Jamie: Yes. It sounds a little bit more dramatic than it was, but it’s interesting that we were doing it when we were skating. As a coach now too, I talked to my clients about the importance of surrounding yourself with really positive people.
We knew back then, when we were competing, the year before the Olympics was a crucial year for us in our training. But like I said to you, it’s not just the physical part of the training that matters. It’s the mental side too and the emotional side of it.
When you are around people who are, let’s say they’re gossipy, people who like to talk about people or people that always are tearing people down, it’s heavy. We’ve all been around people like this, whether it’s at a lunch or a dinner or a family gathering. You leave those gatherings feeling really heavy.
When you are around people who are, let’s say they’re gossipy, it’s heavy. So we just avoided that as much as we could.
We were told that all those moments matter. So we knew who in our life that you really can’t erase was like that. So we avoided hanging around with them and it was family. You don’t choose where you’re born.
So we just avoided that as much as we could, if not always. It really makes a difference because training is hard enough. But if you’re always around things that are distracting you or adding to that negativity and sort of pulling you down, it’s so much work to get yourself back up to the positive again.
So it’s really important and why do you want to hang around people who like to talk about people? We say those are small minds. Great minds talk about opportunity and possibilities. So yes.
Great minds talk about opportunity and possibilities.
Christian: I’ve also heard the term energy givers and energy suckers and I think once you experience it, it does make a lot of sense.
Jamie: It one hundred percent does. And that’s exactly what would happen is you would be around somebody who would just take all your energy. You felt like it’s amazing how it affects your physiology because your thinking creates your feelings, your feelings create your actions and your actions create your results.
Your thinking creates your feelings, your feelings create your actions and your actions create your results.
If you’re around these people and we call it stinking thinking, you start to feel bad and then your body might even feel tired, like the next day people feel really exhausted. This is because you took up all your mental energy around toxicity. So it’s better to be at home by yourself and be quiet and watch positive, happy things.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Jamie: Well, the biggest thing that I’ve always done since I’m a little girl and this was a learned reaction, is to always look at what I’ve failed at or the setback and ask myself what I just learned and what I can do better.
And I see a setback as feedback and a learning opportunity. I always have. It was like, it doesn’t mean I’m bad at this. It doesn’t mean I should quit. This is just feedback.
So you ask yourself, what can I do better? What did I learn from that experience? In figure skating, I often thought that maybe I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be, or maybe I’d really realized I needed to work on the mental side.
Maybe I also thought that I didn’t think it was important before, but I did then. I couldn’t see myself skating perfectly at that competition. Whatever it was, I always asked myself, what am I going to do now to be better?
So today, that’s what I always tell athletes, people and my clients, is that you’re not a failure if you choose to see that, to see the opportunity or potential to come out of that experience as a positive one. But you’re a failure if you choose to stay down and quit. That’s a failure.
You’re not a failure if you choose to see the opportunity or potential to come out of that experience as a positive one. But you’re a failure if you choose to stay down and quit.
Otherwise, you just see it as feedback and ask what can you do with it?
Why she started working with a psychologist during her career
Christian: And I saw you started working with a psychologist at some point in your career, and you said that was a game-changer. Why was that?
Jamie: So the biggest psychological awareness for me was when we were in Nice, France at the World Championships, and the Russians were taken out of the competition. I guess they had tested positive previously at a competition, so they were no longer competing there.
So we thought that the door was now wide open. We were skating really well and we thought that we’d got this. And we were sitting, I think in a decent spot after the second, after the short and I completely messed up the whole long program.
I don’t even know what happened to me. I remember leaving Nice feeling like such a victim. I played that victim state, “poor me. I don’t know what happened to me.” I sat in that mental state for so long.
I feel like we toured Germany for a solid month and all I did was mope around because I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. So when I got back from Germany, I decided that I wanted to get help because I didn’t like the way I was thinking. It was really interruptive for me.
It was alien for me. I didn’t like the way I was feeling because that’s not how I normally feel and think. So the only thing I knew was to call for help from a psychologist.
That psychologist told me right away that my mental game was not tough or strong enough. He also said that they can guarantee me that when I got out there, I thought the door was wide open, but mentally I wasn’t prepared for the competition.
I remember thinking that this was the feedback from the setback. I wondered if he was right because at that point I couldn’t visualize myself and David skating perfectly. I’m grateful that I had that happen in Nice because the following year was World’s in Vancouver and then the following year was the Olympics.
So if I hadn’t learned from that experience that I wasn’t mentally ready, I wouldn’t have been mentally ready even for the Olympics two years later. That could have happened to me, maybe in Salt Lake City.
If I hadn’t learned from that experience that I wasn’t mentally ready, I wouldn’t have been mentally ready for the Olympics two years later.
So I’m grateful that it happened when it did. I took the feedback that I needed to, and that was “Jamie, you had to work on your mental game” because when you perform, it’s 90% mental, 10% physical.
Christian: That is an interesting one. I would challenge that a little bit because I think it’s both way. So the mental affects the physical, but also the physical affects the mental. If you know that you’re physically prepared, that also helps your mental game.
Jamie: Totally, but physical preparation, by the time we got to the Olympics, physically, David and I could do everything, every day perfectly. So now it was mental of just sustaining that mindset of “we are ready; we can do this and we will do this” and just seeing it.
Because physically, we were in the best shape of our lives, so it was just a mental game at that point. And trust me to be totally honest with you, there were quite a few people that tried to throw us off the day of the long program. They came into our space, they tried to be where we are and interfere with our psyche. We had all kinds of things that tried to – people tried to throw us off. Again, my partner thinks it’s funny
And because he knew what they were doing, but I remember thinking, “Oh wow, isn’t this nice. Everybody’s being friendly and we’re all hanging out together.” It’s not a normal thing for all of us. In skating, everybody warms up in their own spot, but our competitors decided to come over into our space. And I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s really nice. We’re all friends and we’re being nice to each other.” They were there for a reason but because I had that mindset, it didn’t affect me. So whether I was just ignorant or wanting to see it that way, I don’t know. It worked.
Christian: It has worked.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Jamie: I’ve had so many role models in my life. One of the biggest ones, obviously that was really instrumental through all my life, is my mom. She suffered depression when I was a younger child and I admire her for not giving up.
She just kept going for me; keeping me in skating and just knowing that I was happy doing what I was doing and she always was really positive and inspiring for me, even though she was struggling.
So to me she is a person that, I saw her struggle, but I also saw my mom not quit. So that’s a great role model for me and staying positive for her daughter, which was a massive struggle.
My mum suffered depression when I was a younger child, she just kept going for me; keeping me in skating and just knowing that I was happy doing what I was doing and she always was really positive and inspiring for me, even though she was struggling. I saw her struggle, but I also saw my mom not quit.
I personally have never had real depression. I’ve had dark days, but I wouldn’t diagnose me with depression and I can’t imagine what she was feeling most days, especially having two children, but dealing with my skating and the cost of that and scheduling and whatnot.
Then of course, I even had a trainer that I worked with, an off-ice conditioning coach who was a big part of me not quitting on my dark times. He was very inspiring and very motivating and again, just with the talks that we would have sometimes sitting after training, and he would just talk to me and he was kind of like a big brother to me. So I am super grateful for him because I know he’s one of the people that saved me from quitting.
There’s a lot of athletes over the years that I’ve really admired and I know their stories of what they’ve been through and even just some Canadian athletes that — Like we had one, I remember in the Vancouver Olympics, Joannie Rochette’s mom had passed away days before she competed.
I remember just thinking, “I can’t imagine having that happen and having to go out and skate. How do you do that?” So she became in that moment, a role model for me to just that sheer determination and passion and true grit, whatever you want to call it, to just, “my mom wants me to – my mom would want me to do this.” So, actually talking about it, it’s a very emotional thing because can’t imagine losing a parent in your most important days of your career. So that’s a tough one for me to nail down for you, but I would say my mom and my conditioning coach, for sure.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What’s the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Jamie: Again, that’s a bit of a loaded question because I’ve had many people who have said really powerful things to me. There was a gentleman, a dad of another skater, that I grew up with here in Edmonton, who was there for me when I was skating one summer in Oakland, California.
I would say that he really turned things around for me as far as visioning and having a focus when I was struggling in my three years of my dark days. We had many talks and he said to me, “Jamie, you need a vision.” And he said, “I want you to write it down.”
So that summer, I would say was the biggest turnaround of my whole career. Because as soon as I got my plan in my head on paper or my idea or my dream on paper, it became a plan. From that day forward, I kept having goals and I just kept striving for more and better.
So for me, along with my mom, of course, and my conditioning coach, that was always really positive, I would say that man was the one that really got me turned around because I was kind of just drifting.
I was putting in time and just praying that things were going to work out, that a partner would show up for me. So when he helped me understand that you need a vision, that’s when things did turn around for me.
As soon as I got my plan in my head on paper or my idea or my dream on paper, it became a plan. From that day forward, I kept having goals and I just kept striving for more and better. that’s when things did turn around for me.
Christian: Interesting. I’m just trying to recall that there’s a quote, which basically describes what you just said. I think it’s something like, “it’s a dream until you write it down and when you write it down, it’s a goal.” So, I’m misquoting it, but the essence is that.
Jamie: Yes, it becomes a plan because we need a roadmap. Now the language that I’m using in my coaching is really like that, I explain to my clients is that they need that blueprint. We call it a blueprint.
The same thing when you’re building a house or a condo or apartment, whatever, you have to have the blueprint of what your dream is of your home and the same as for your actual vision of where you want to be in your life.
You have to have the blueprint of what your dream is.
You don’t have to always know exactly what you want, but for me, even now, as a coach, all I could write down two years ago in my vision was help people. I really love helping people. And I didn’t even know what that looked like.
I work with special Olympic athletes and people with intellectual disabilities and I love being around them. So that’s really all I knew about helping, but I’m going, “well, that’s not really going to be a job for me, but it’s more of a hobby; things that I really enjoyed to do, but help people.
And two weeks later, I was at an envision workshop and I’m the person presenting and I said, this is exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a speaker on a stage, helping people transform their lives from whatever state that they’re into success, and helping them understand that the tools and share my personal experiences with people and yes, it was two weeks later, it was like a light bulb came on, I went, “that’s exactly what I want to do.”
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic figure skater
Christian: The next one really interests me. A typical training day for a figure skater. How does it look like?
Jamie: For us, it was quality, not quantity, so more wasn’t necessarily better. And you’ll be actually quite surprised if I gave you our schedule, when David and I were training for the Olympics, it was minimal.
For us, it was quality, not quantity, so more wasn’t necessarily better.
We did two pair of sessions a day and by the end, we weren’t really doing an individual free skate to work on our jumps and stuff because we utilize our time properly on our pair of sessions.
So we only skated about two hours a day. And then we would do some kind of off-ice every day between half an hour and one hour. So maybe three hours a day.
The rest was spent at home. I would go and watch videos at home of our performances. I did a lot of mental stuff, but it was three hours of physical work a day; max.
Christian: And that was in preparation for the Olympics?
Christian: In the offseason, I would assume volumes are a bit higher?
Jamie: It depends on the athlete. Again, when David and I were first skating together, we were skating four hours a day, when we were living in Montreal.
We were doing four sessions a day and then the year leading up to the Olympics, we really tightened that up and decided that it wasn’t really about doing more. It was about doing better quality time.
We just found that the two sessions, the two pair sessions were all that we needed. And it was also too that conserve that energy too, right? It’s really important that you put yourself all out there on each session and going out for a third session unless you’re really having a struggle with something, then you can go on for a third session to work on it or whatever, but we weren’t having that issue.
Even if we did, our coach always said to us, “you’ve put in your time, go do your off-ice, but you’re done for the day. Let’s erase what’s happened. Maybe it wasn’t a great day or something, but let’s erase it. And tomorrow’s a fresh day.”
And that was our mentality was just that don’t hold on to that, let it go. Tomorrow’s a new day, but generally, we were doing really well. We were just ready, so it was about consistency and just training smart.
We were just ready, so it was about consistency and just training smart.
Christian: As a strength and conditioning coach, I would always think like in a sport, as a figure skating, you jump and you land, there are so many impact forces also on the body. Is this something that you take into consideration in the weekly planning? So kind of, one day more jumping, the next day, probably less impact or something like that.
Jamie: Well, for pair skating, we’re jumping less than the single skaters, but our trainer knew exactly what we were doing, she used to watch us skate. So she would create the appropriate program for where we were at, meaning summer would be different like you’re saying.
I’m assuming it would be more training. We would do heavier weight training, maybe in the summer leading up to the fall. And then once we started competing, she would taper that off and we would do less time, but like really specific agility exercises or really specific plyometric things to work on. Like the exploding part of the movement that we had to do.
She was really good. It’s like a scientist having to figure all that out. I don’t know how she did it, but we were bang on. I think there were maybe two sessions were for the whole year where we sat with her and we were like, “we’re wiped.” We can’t – we are physically and mentally done today and she’d be talking to us.
I remember one time I was crying and David was just done, we were so mentally exhausted from the pressure. And then she would just sit and talk with us. And so those days also matter. Having that sort of therapist, someone who’s supporting you and going “it’s okay, you guys, and you know what? This is what it’s all about.
This is what it’s like for an Olympic athlete to train, your days aren’t all going to be fun and easier and enjoyable, so we would just take it easy on those days, but everything was planned. Everything! From the minute we left for the Olympics. I’m not kidding you. Our whole weekly schedule was all planned out.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Jamie: I would nominate Kat [Katarina Witt]. Also, Kurt Browning, he’s an interesting character and fellow Canadian. Scott Hamilton would be another one. I could give you a list of all kinds of athletes.
Christian: That’s really cool.
What’s going on in Jamie Salé’s life right now
Christian: What’s going on in your life right now? I’ve been to your Facebook page and I’ve binge-watched all the videos actually. It’s really cool. I would recommend everyone to watch that. It’s loaded with actionable advice.
Jamie: So what I’ve decided to do was use my experiences that I’ve been through in my life to share with individual people that want to work with me. I don’t like the word life coach because here in Canada it’s a very commonly used term for people that are helping people.
I’ve decided to do was use my experiences that I’ve been through in my life to share with individual people.
I like the word motivational coach or the title motivational coach because I feel instead of selling people to want to work with me, it’s about motivating people. Getting them inspired to say like, that would be so cool to work with Jamie, to understand the tools that she used for success because not only have I had that in skating, but I’ve also been certified to be a life coach.
I’m helping people discover a life that they would love living because the people that are generally reaching out to me have experienced a lot in their life, but they feel now like I have felt in my life, that they’re just drifting around and they want to know what their greater purpose is, or they’re struggling with a certain part of their life and they want to support in that.
And what I feel my services are why they’re different than maybe a psychologist because I’ve had lots of psychologists in my life is that we don’t necessarily sit and listen and talk about our problems. I don’t have space for that in my sessions. It’s more about talking about possibilities and opportunities.
I say to my clients, I know you have conditions, I do too. I still do. I always will. Something will always show up, whether it’s physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional, whatever. Maybe it’s even that talk in our head. That shows up too.
But my job is to keep them accountable to say, “I know you have this condition, that’s bothering you. It’s there, but don’t let it get you.” So I give them the tools to work through their conditions so that they can also achieve their goals and their dreams. It’s so much fun. I love it.
I’m helping people discover a life that they would love living, I give them the tools to work through their conditions so that they can also achieve their goals and their dreams.
Christian: I live by a bunch of quotes. I think there’s also a quote like, “energy flows where attention goes.”
Jamie: That’s on my website. I love that one. We used to say, where the mind goes, the body flows. Your body goes wherever you place your attention. So, you’re letting the universe know, and when you get definite with the universe, the universe gets definite with you.
Your body goes wherever you place your attention.
And so that’s why I tell everybody when you’re writing your vision, dream big. Why not? We always sit in the thought of “Well, I can’t have that. That’s not possible. That’s not realistic.”
I don’t know. Are you a realist? Do you tell yourself that certain things aren’t realistic?
Christian: I am a realist, but I also believe in doing the things I want to do. I believe that’s what has guided me through all my career. Again, it’s not about me here. It’s about you, but a lot of people told me I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.
Jamie: And you proved them wrong.
Christian: Then again, it’s because I do it for myself and I don’t do it for someone else.
Jamie: But that’s the key, to always be thinking like that; that talking the way we are talking right now or talking on cell phones, internet, and airplanes. Think about light, Thomas Edison created light, everybody thought he was mentally insane when he was working on creating light and he had 10,000 failures. All that stuff wasn’t realistic before it was created and actually became a reality.
So when people say, “Oh, I can’t have that because”, or “the economy or my family won’t think”, or “I don’t think I can have that”, I say, go back to being a kid. When you were a kid, anything was possible. We had big dreams when we were kids.
We used to role-play all the time. So if you can, as an adult, now we stop allowing ourselves to fall down. And so we become these realists and we put ourselves in these bubbles so that we don’t fail at things. “I can’t do that, because what if I fail at it?” But you’re here on this earth.
Why not try? Why not go for it? I’d rather fail at something, I’d rather do it and fail at it than say I can’t and not try. So that’s what I do with my clients, is getting them thinking bigger and stop having those boundaries like, “I can only do this because”. Think outside that.
I’d rather do it and fail at it than say I can’t and not try.
And the most important thing here is not necessarily focusing on that vision that you’ve got for yourself, the important thing isn’t actually accomplishing it. It’s the person you become on the journey. The lessons that you’ve learned that are forever; that you’ll apply to every next chapter.
Because there’s a lot of things that people will put in their visions that are really out there and that’s wonderful. But again, being an Olympic gold medalist, there’s only one champion every four years. It didn’t mean I couldn’t do it, but if I didn’t accomplish that, it doesn’t make me a failure. It was the person I’ve become in that journey is the gift.
Christian: Really cool.
Where can you find Jamie Salé
Christian: Where can people find you? The Gold Medal Vision, I’ve seen that on Facebook and I link that up. Where else can people find you?
Jamie: I have a website’ it’s Jamiesale.com and actually my website is being revamped right now. I’m rebranding, so that is going to change a little bit. But, of course, that’s my landing page and then I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Instagram and Facebook and Instagram is Jamie Sale Life Coach and on Facebook, it’s just Jamie Sale, I believe. I’m also on Twitter as Jamie Sale, so yes, and LinkedIn. There are so many outlets, aren’t there today? It’s crazy.
Christian: I will bring them all together on my website and then people can find you wherever they want to find you.
Jamie Salé’s social profiles
Christian: Jamie. That was awesome. Thanks for your time.
Jamie: Well, thank you, Christian. It was a pleasure speaking with you. I wish you all the very best in your future endeavors.