Curt Harnett, the only Canadian cyclist to win three Olympic medals – two bronze and one silver, met with NATIONAL’s Toronto office staff last week as part of the Firm’s Bold Thinking Speaker Series.
Curt’s unassuming humour won over staff members as he described some of the foundations that led to his seemingly rapid rise to success in the sport. It was a short two years before finding himself at the 1984 Olympic Games with a silver medal around his neck that Curt had boldly left a serious run at a hockey career to follow a recently-found passion for cycling.
The member of both Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Olympic Hall of Fame is also a veteran of two Pan American Games, winning gold in the 1,000-metre time trial and bronze in sprint in 1987. He was the World Record Holder in his event, the 750-Match Sprint, for eleven years, becoming the first man to break the elusive 10-second barrier for 200 meters in a time of 9.865 seconds – an approximate speed of 73 km per hour.
For Curt, the fundamentals of success in sports and professional work are the same: learning to embrace fear; having the ability to critically assess and review one’s performance; and dedicating one’s self every day. Among his insights:
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. A major contributing factor to his success was the unwavering commitment of his parents to support him in his training and their unflinching acceptance of his bold shift from hockey to cycling.
Be willing to step outside your comfort zone to follow your passion. Curt traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to train with the country’s cycling team in 1983 – sometimes sleeping on the floor with cockroaches before race days.
Great opportunities come when you’ve built a fantastic foundation. A firm believer in paying one’s dues, Curt never showed up knowing that he hadn’t done everything he could to be best prepared.
Learn to look at failure in a different light. For Curt, FAIL is an acronym for Found Another Important Lesson upon review of the experience. And he accepts that he has failed much more than he has succeeded.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Society seeks to want you to conform. You can have an Olympic dream or a dream of Olympic proportions; just have the courage to go about it. As he once read, ‘He who says it can’t be done is usually interrupted by someone doing it!’
Looking forward, Curt has been named chef de mission for the 2015 Canadian Pan American Team. He is thrilled with the legacy that the Game’s installations will leave athletes and wider communities alike. With 750 athletes, this could be the largest Canadian contingent ever at the Games and represents an incredible opportunity for Canadians to cheer on their Olympic hopefuls as they follow their dreams.