Paige Lawrence and Richmond Champion visit Kennedy Langbank School
Granted… there are obvious differences.
However, during a visit to Kennedy Langbank School last Friday, Paige Lawrence (former Canadian Competitive Pair Figure Skater and Olympian) and her husband Richmond Champion (an American Professional Rodeo Cowboy specializing in Bareback Bronc Riding) talked to students about the similar mindset that has enabled each to achieve success in their respective sports.
Both Paige and Richmond noted that a desire to try something new led them to discover the sport that would become their passion.
“I grew up on a ranch just outside of Kennedy” explained Paige. “Since we have such long winters, I decided that I wanted to learn how to skate. I went to the little rink that we have here in town and started learning how to skate when I was four-years-old.
“By the time I was eight-years-old, my very supportive parents asked me if I wanted to work with a different coach in Wawota. I said that I did and started skating there. For the next seven years I skated on my own as a member of that Skating Club and became one of the top skaters in the province.
“Then when I was 15, one of the boys in that club (Rudi Swiegers) asked me if I wanted to try Pair Skating. I thought it would be cool, so I said I would. And when I tried it, I found that I loved everything about it, how fast we skated, being lifted over Rudi’s head, even being thrown across the ice!
“We began training and focused on learning how to become the best Figure Skating Pair we could be. Two and a half years later – we were #2 in Canada at the Junior Level!
“From that point on, we knew that we had the potential to do some amazing things. So, we kept on working hard and were able to represent Canada at international competitions in countries like New Zealand, England and Japan.
“Then in 2014, we went to the Olympics in Russia! We spent two fantastic weeks there and skated the best performances that we’d ever given, ending up 14th in the world!”
“My family travelled a lot when I was growing up” recalls Richmond. “So, I lived in different parts of the US when I was a kid. I got involved in different sports like lacrosse and soccer wherever we went. Then, when I was 13, Bull Riding got to be a big thing. So, I tried it… and I was really bad at it!
“At that point, I’d gotten into working with horses and thought that Bareback Riding looked like it might be fun. So, I got on a horse, tried it, and got thrown off.
“But I loved it! I knew that this was what I wanted to do!! So, I started going to high school rodeos and worked on learning how not to get thrown off as often! Then, I got a rodeo scholarship and went to Tarleton State University for three years.
“When I was 21, I entered a rodeo in Texas called ‘The American’. I ended up winning top prize at that rodeo, and the top prize was $1 million dollars! That was almost 10 years ago (although it seems like it was only yesterday.) But since then, I’ve been able to make a living doing this. I’ve gone to rodeos all over the United States and Canada (including the Calgary Stampede) and been at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for the past seven years.
“It’s been a great ride, and I still love doing this as much as I did at the start!”
Falling (both physically and metaphorically) is something that can cause anxiety in both sports. However, the couple says that they have each found a way to get back up after a fall and keep moving ahead.
“When you get only one chance to do your thing, it can be nerve-wracking,” observes Paige. “So, I had to learn how to train my mind the same way that I trained my muscles. I knew if I wanted to be the best, I had to learn how to control my nerves so that I could be the best.
“I fell down a lot! But to become the best at anything, you are going to have to fall down and make mistakes sometimes. So, when I fell, I learned how to get right back up and just keep on going.”
“I have no idea how many times I’ve been bucked off” Richmond admits. “A person has to expect that. With anything that you try to do and want to be really good at…there’s going to be times when you get it wrong and fall. There’s going to be mistakes along the way. You can’t let the fear of that stop you. What matters isn’t that you fall. The important thing is that you get up and try again.”
Ultimately, both Paige and Richmond say that their success has come through understanding that what many would define as a “loss” can become an opportunity to grow and learn.
“I was a very average skater” says Paige. “But I loved what I was doing. So, I focused on improving my performance. At every practice, I was the first one on the ice and the last one to leave. And I spent my entire time on the ice learning how to do those things that I wasn’t good at, better.
“I also had a great coach, who taught me that losing at a competition isn’t a failure. If you want to be great at something, you can’t expect that to come easily or quickly. Sometimes the thing that you work hardest at will become the best thing in your life.”
“In my mind…” says Richmond “…every time I get on a horse (or try to do anything else in my life) I view it as a chance to either win something or learn something. And the things that I learn when I ‘lose’ might be exactly what I need to know to ‘win’ the next time! So, no matter what happens, I just take whatever each experience has to offer me, and go on to the next ride!”