By Tammara Thibeault (as told to Jamie Rebner)
I can sit here and say, ‘you know what, I got a bronze medal at Worlds, that’s good enough for me.’
But it’s not.
A lot of people think that once you’re at the top, staying there is easy. But the hardest part is when you’re at the top, to stay grounded and keep pushing forward. Because a lot of people could be satisfied with a bronze medal at Worlds.
If I would’ve won the gold medal at Worlds, it wouldn’t have been enough because I would think I could’ve done better. I think it’s all about personal growth and personal achievement. I would be damn proud if I had a gold medal at Worlds but I’ll get there, I’m young. And when I do it, you just watch.
I didn’t just win a bronze medal by chance; I had a specific routine that I followed to make sure I was mentally prepared. In the morning I would get up, do my Headspace meditation app, some breathing exercises, and then I would visualize the tactical and technical aspects of my performance. So when I got up in the morning, it wasn’t just about eating breakfast. It was a 45-minute process.
Even before bed, I would do the meditation as well because it’s nerve-wracking getting into the ring. It’s altogether a different sport. You’re going out there and this other girl wants to beat me up so it’s either you or me.
I’m not saying it’s harder than any other sport.
I’m just saying it’s different.
With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo approaching, I am excited about this challenge because I did well at the World Championships and I know I can do better.
I’m young, especially in the sport, and I think that I can do something great and I want to keep pushing towards that. My goal is, no matter the outcome, to be able to perform the best I can. When I get out of the ring, I want to be proud of what I’ve done. For me, boxing is an art; I want to execute what I know in the best manner possible. And winning is just the result of that.
I honestly believe that I have the potential and the work ethic to be the best. Every time I step in the ring, I think: ‘How would an Olympic champion carry themselves in this situation? Is it by freaking out and saying, ‘Oh my G-d, I have to win this’. No, it’s by staying composed knowing that the work is done and that I can push forward and come out the winner.
I have also been working on a different approach the last year; to enjoy the process. I know there’s nothing “enjoyable” about going in the ring against someone that wants to beat you up. But instead of seeing challenges as roadblocks, I see them as gifts. For example, if I’m in the semi-final of Worlds, it’s because I am worthy of that challenge. I’m here for a reason; it wasn’t handed it to me. If you’re not having fun with what you’re doing regardless if it’s a career or a sport, then there’s no point in doing it.
My journey into boxing was one that started many years ago when I was 10 because my dad played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. During the off-season, he would go to the boxing club to stay in shape and I would join him. It was a time that my father and I had together and it became a routine. I would see my dad box and I wanted to box like my dad.
Then in 2009, when it was announced that women’s boxing would be introduced in the 2012 Olympics, I thought: ‘Whoa, I box. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing? I can do that, I can go win a gold medal at the Olympics’.
I must have been like 11 or 12 when I said that and it’s been my dream ever since. Everything I’ve done has been leading up to the next few months, which is crazy because it was so long ago where I decided that’s what I want to do. And a lot of people doubted my Olympic aspirations. But now that I’m one of the top dogs, it’s coming true. And it wasn’t given to me; it’s a work ethic I’ve had to develop over the years that my dad initially instilled in me.
Boxing’s helped me get through a lot; I was bullied at school when I was a kid and boxing has always been a place of comfort, where no matter what was going on, it was always somewhere I could retreat to.
Although we spent 12 years in Saskatchewan during my dad’s football career, I was born in Saint Georges, Quebec. From Quebec, we spent three years in Halifax because my father played football at Saint Mary’s University. Then he got drafted by the Roughriders so we moved to Saskatchewan. Then, six or seven years ago, my family moved to Shawinigan because my dad stopped playing football and my parents wanted to come back home. Two years ago in 2017, I moved to Montreal because I had to centralize for the National Team, which is now my base for training.
As I get ready for the upcoming Olympic year, I also appreciate how women’s boxing is evolving and growing. I think that over the next few years, we will continue to see improvement in that sphere. We have Claressa Shield and Katie Taylor that are helping to give women’s boxing a lot more exposure. Those women are essentially making the path for future generations, which is motivating not just for me, but also for younger generations that have the same dreams and aspire to achieve the same goals.
When it comes to the next generation of athletes, my advice is to be true to yourself, stay humble, and remember where you come from. And don’t let anybody tell you what you can or can’t achieve. You have to be in charge of your development, goals, and aspirations. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Sometimes, there’s no need to overthink it.
I remember a few weeks ago, I called one of my close friends and I was freaking out. I had World Championships coming up and I didn’t know what to do. My friend summed it up in two sentences: ‘All this time I’ve known you, you’ve been talking about going to the Olympics, going to World Championships. You know what you have to do and now you just have to do it.’ We tend to overcomplicate everything. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the best you can. If you want something, just do it. There’s nothing more to it than that.
Remember to trust the process, stay true to yourself, and believe in yourself. It takes a lot to truly believe that you’re going to achieve something or reach a goal. When you talk about the Olympics or Super Bowl, whatever your goal is, it’s not that far away and it’s closer than you think.
It’s just up to you to decide whether you want it or not.