Just when I thought I was comfortable and ready to take the next few years on…I decide to move to another continent. Yup, across the pond. I know, I had to re-read that last bit as well. I’m sitting here at midnight, on a Tuesday, listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and deciding how to start writing this. I guess I’ll start from the beginning, and try to keep it short.
Three weeks ago, we started our ‘specialized’ training, and about 10 minutes in, I looked at Gregg, and told him I wasn’t doing this whole training thing, alone, anymore. He looked at me and told me he’s been waiting for the moment I said that. A little bit of background – Gregg has been my mentor, coach, father figure, and friend, for close to a decade. He brought me to a point where we both knew I needed more to improve my performances. I would not be where I am today, nor would I have gone to my first Olympics, without him by my side. As much as this was a collective decision, it was Gregg’s suggestion, and I give him kudos, as a coach, for having the strength to say those words… because I know there are selfish coaches out there, that don’t think about the future of their athletes.
I have been training on my own for the last few years; and as self-motivated as I am to push myself, I also know how beneficial it is to have a healthy environment, with teammates that help push me back. The year I spent training with Rikke and Tomomi were the best two years of my life. I am also at the stage where, if I want to succeed at the next two Olympics (2022 and 2026), something had to give. I crave change, I crave being uncomfortable, being challenged, and crave growing as a person. I crave being surrounded by high performance individuals who are eager to learn. I crave being in a professional environment, where everyone has the same goal – be better than you were yesterday. I crave helping others, in any way I can, through my past experiences. This positive change, will do that.
I was presented with an opportunity, and I took it. In the middle of that training session, three weeks ago, Gregg suggested I look into teams to skate with in Europe. For the first time, I looked at him, and decided in that moment that nothing can keep me here any longer. (I was not emotionally ready to make that change, two years ago, and four years ago, when we talked about it at first.) We paused the session; I literally sat down in the middle of the field, took my phone out, and sent a couple of emails to Holland. By the third day, I had leads on a team and as everything seemed to fall into place, I grew more excited by the passing minutes.
It was fun to see my close friends and family’s reaction when I shared the news, at first. It gets harder when you start thinking about actually packing your entire life, selling EVERYTHING, and having a fresh start. Yet, it’s all just stuff, and none of it matters in the end. Change IS tough. I am writing this blog as a self-reminder, in a way, because I realize that it’s not the first time I’ve done something crazy like this. I moved to Calgary just before I turned 16, ALONE, to pursue my Olympic dreams, while my family stayed behind in Toronto. The only human I knew was Cindy Klassen, and only because she was on the cereal box I looked at every morning when I ate breakfast. I am now 28, and I feel privileged to be healthy and able to go after what makes my heart happy. I love skating. It’s stupid expensive and I work my ass off, off the ice, to attempt to pay for everything, but I love that I wear spandex, and that my left thigh is bigger than my right, and that I don’t have to brush my hair most days, because a bun will do.
This not-so-temporary change in my life, will be something I know I’ll look back on without regret. I am grateful for the opportunity, grateful for the help I have received so far, and I am beyond excited to see what is next. The best part is looking forward to seeing how far I can take my abilities.
Thank you to everyone that has believed in me so far… as a human and as an athlete. At the end of the day, when this sport stuff is over, we are left with the experiences we’ve had, the lessons we learned, and how we approach the challenge of moving forward.
Lots of love, and talk soon. XO
Todd Saelhof of the Calgary Sun/Herald here.
I’d love to talk with you more on this decision and do a story.
Please text me at 403-828-2251.
I am so happy for you Alex, but at the same time sad to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. Happy tears. You are a rock of a friend to Dayna. She will miss you more than you know and so will us Clays.
When we cheered for you at your races at the Oval, often times my Dutch friend was there beside me, cheering for the color Orange. Now that will be us Clays!
Wishing you the best of everything! I know you will keep in touch with your Canadian friends 🇨🇦 I love your sense of adventure and fearless to change.
Dinner over at our place before you go, promise❤️ Love you
Rose & Dave xxoo
Hi Alex …
Wishing you the very best with this next progressive step in your career.
Alex , Gregg is, and always will be one of the smartest people in Speedskating (world wide)
Gregg does not always tell you the answer but as you have learned, helps you discover it.
Having Gregg in you life has enhanced it more than you may ever realize. Your next phase of evolution in life will be exciting and challenging.
Best of luck I will be following with much interest!