Aug 1,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA – Being a leader takes responsibility, confidence and determination. Four University of Victoria Vikes alumni athletes competing at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland are taking on larger duties, as they are leaders on their respective Canadian national teams.
Responsibility, pressures and mental strength are three important qualities of being a good leader – something that comes naturally to swimmer and former Vike Ryan Cochrane, who was also selected to raise Canada’s flag in the athlete’s village.
“There were over 40 000 fans cheering in the stadium and walking in with the largest traveling team at the games was an amazing experience,” said former Vikes men’s field hockey player Keegan Pereira, who marched alongside Cochrane and over 300 Canadians into Celtic Park for the opening ceremony.
Less than 24 hours after the ceremony, Cochrane, a two-time Olympic medalist, captured Canada’s first gold of the games when he successfully defended his title from 2010 in the 400-m. A few short days later he completed the sweep earning his second gold medal in the 1500-m event, another title he defended from the New Delhi Games.
“It is very stressful swimming on the first day,” Cochrane told the Calgary Herald newspaper after the race. “But it’s exciting to get a race done and see how that sets you up [for] the rest of the meet”.
Thea Culley, a Vikes women’s field hockey alumni and the highest capped player on Team Canada, also competed in her first match hours after the opening ceremony.
“I was taught that it is important to try to make every play count and to make something out of nothing,” says Culley as she reflects on her time at UVic. “Buzz and Krista (UVic coaching staff) filled me with hope and determination that I could do it. Those are great messages to teach developing athletes and I still hold those values close to my heart”.
Both Culley and Cochrane began their international careers in 2006. Culley competed for the Vikes from 2003-07, while Cochrane raced for the Vikes during the 2011-12 season. In that year, Cochrane was named both CIS male swimmer of the year and CIS rookie of the year.
“Cochrane’s experience alone has guided him to great results in Glasgow,” says Vikes swimming head coach Peter Vizsolyi. “He’s leading by example using his two Olympic and two Commonwealth Games experiences. On a young Canadian swim team, that is a very valuable asset”.
Leading the Canadian men’s rugby sevens team is former Vike John Moonlight. In 2010 Moonlight suffered an injury that almost kept him from making the 2010 Commonwealth Games roster. Four years later, Moonlight has freshly captained the sevens squad to their best results ever, as Canada claimed the Bowl at the Glasgow Games on Jul. 27.
Rounding off the four veterans is former Vike and Moonlight’s teammate Sean Duke. Duke is no stranger to the international stage, however he emphasizes that representing Canada will never get old.
“In my opinion it’s always better to win or lose as a team,” says Duke. “The feeling of fighting and winning an uphill battle is something that should be cherished”.
There is a lot of responsibility when defined as a leader. For Cochrane, Culley, Duke and Moonlight there is a common end goal: being grateful for the opportunities given and representing your country to the best of your ability each time.
Expect to see more from the four Vikes as the anticipation of the Rio 2015 Olympic Games and Toronto 2015 Pan American Games draws nearer.