There are many ups and downs on the road to realizing your dreams, and by sharing stories of how they've made theirs come true, two-time Olympic gold medallists Gillian Apps and Carla MacLeod will not only inspire others to do the same, they'll also help ease the financial strain on their fellow elite athletes.
Both contributed stories to a new eBook recently released by CAN Fund, a non-profit organization aimed at raising funds to support Canadian athletes on their paths to success, including Apps and MacLeod during their time with Canada's National Women's Team.
"It allows you to buy the food and to pay for your car and to pay your rent," MacLeod said of how CAN Fund helped her and many of her former teammates, including leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. "They believe in what you're doing and they believe that you're going to do well."
"As an athlete, I can't work fulltime, so to receive a grant like this can help me get through day-to-day," Apps agreed. "It's just an absolute crucial part of training and income for the year."
The stories of these two hockey players hold many similarities, but are written quite differently, and both can be found in Achieving Dreams, one of six chapters in the online publication "Excellence: The Ripple Effect – 36 Stories of Courage, Believing in Yourself, Success from Failure, Excellence and Representing Canada by our athletes."
While Apps wrote her piece as a poem, prior to reaching her goal of representing her country on international ice, MacLeod's story is a letter written to her dream of making the Olympic Games after actually achieving it, an introspective reflection on what she describes as a tumultuous, but ultimately fulfilling, relationship.
"I thought, you know what, I'm going to talk to this dream," said MacLeod, who retired from Team Canada after winning Olympic gold on home ice last year. "The trying times, but also, obviously, the unbelievable moments."
MacLeod writes openly and honestly in "Dear Dream," without romanticizing what it is to be an Olympic athlete, but simultaneously encouraging others to follow their own dreams. "I learned early on that our relationship was about give and take. To be honest, a lot of time it felt like I had to give, and then give some more."
MacLeod even admits, "You had pushed me to the brink and I was one step away from quitting. But there's something about you that kept bringing me back, kept inspiring me to be better. And I can truthfully say now that had you not pushed me to tears, I wouldn't have appreciated our relationship to the same degree as I do now."
While MacLeod looks back, Apps looks ahead in her story, through a poignant poem she wrote for an English course while studying and playing NCAA hockey at Dartmouth College – before she had even cracked the lineup for Team Canada.
"I had just been cut from the 2002 Olympics and an assignment I had in school was writing a poem," she recalled. "I was really pushing to make the national team."
In the succinct but sentimental "Dreams," Apps describes her determination as, "Something so pure, it fuels the fire within us. It pushes one foot, then the next. One. More. Step."
"So close, one pushes through," she continues. "Every minute counts. Tick tick tick. One. More. Step."
Apps finally took that all-important step onto the ice with Canada's National Women's Team in 2001, but she's far from done reaching her dreams.
"Now, being removed two Olympics later, I still have dreams … to represent Canada, to be my best when I have a chance, and to (get better) every single year," she said, adding next on the list includes playing at the 2012 IIHF World Women's Championship in Burlington, Vt., and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. "So when I read that poem … it still hits home and it's still very fresh."
MacLeod isn't done dreaming, either.
"Being retired, people always ask, what are you going to do next?" she said. "I just keep saying, 'All I can tell you is, it's going to be something I love.' "
In her final paragraph, MacLeod emphasizes that athletes such as herself and Apps aren't the only ones who can make their dreams come true.
"You are open to having a relationship with anyone and everyone. You don't just hand pick certain people, instead you live within all of us and we can all achieve you."
To be further inspired, download Excellence: The Ripple Effect for just $25 at www.CanadianAthletesNow.ca. All proceeds go directly to supporting Canadian athletes perform at their very best.
"These amazing athletes, from all different disciplines, are sharing a small portion of what they go through to achieve their dreams," Apps said. "To have a chance to read something so personal, is very unique."