Local RBC branch manager Norman Cooper hosted the RBC Torchbearer Reception for all of the torchbearers participating in the Olympic Torch Relay in 100 Mile House.
While Cooper hosted the party, the No. 1 attraction was RBC Olympian Michael Lewis, who won a bronze medal as a member of the Lightweight Men’s Four rowing team in Beijing, China in 2008.
He says the Olympic experience was tremendous.
“It was awesome. It was a great experience and winning a medal was pretty cool.
“It was my dad’s birthday the day we won, so he got my [Olympic] flowers. It’s not something I would usually give to my dad, but he enjoyed it on that day,” he says, adding his whole family was there, so he had great support.
He also attended the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece, but as a spare, so he sat in the stands and watched.
During the 100 Mile reception, he was surrounded by people who wanted to chat with, or hold his bronze medal, or have their photograph taken with the lean, affable and obliging 28-year-old Olympian from Victoria.
Lewis was very keen about the local reception as the contingent of young torchbearers from Canim Lake was there, and there was an obvious magnetic connection.
As an RBC Olym-pian, he does a lot of keynote speaking – mostly to youth – his message is clear: “Live your dream and trust in yourself.”
He gets this message across by talking about his road to the Olympics.
Lewis started rowing when he was in Grade 12 in Victoria after a couple of Olympians visited his school, and signed up to give it a try.
“They called my house a few weeks later and left a message with my mom, asking me to show up at the Gorge Rowing Club to attend a fun weekend, with a practice starting at 7 a.m. I was a typical teenager and I thought ‘No way, I’m not getting up for a 7 a.m. to practice rowing’.”
However, his mother had taken the message and dragged him out of bed, as she was adamant he was going to keep his commitment.
“I’m glad she made me go. I enjoyed it right away, but I was horrible.”
Lewis says he had a small physicality and he wasn’t strong or coordinated at the time. After 10 years, he’s still training hard and wants to upgrade his medal to gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
He travels to schools, mostly in the Victoria area and tells the students they can achieve their dreams – whatever that dream may be.
“I tell them that I was that one kid who was encouraged to try something new by those two Olympians. So, if I can just reach one kid, that’s awesome.”
Lewis says he tells the young students not to think they can’t do something just because they see someone doing it really well.
“I remind them that the people they see on TV, or whatever, are only good at something because they took the chance to try it, found out they liked it, and then trained and trained until they became the best at it — whatever it is — that they possibly can.
“For me, it was planting my feet into a boat for the first time. It’s the same for everyone, you just have to take that first step and do the best you can.”