Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Olympian Within

Stretched Out
       '83 Tignes, France
         Photo: Mark Junak 
Bumps at Sundown
 '83 Merribel, France
Photo: Mark Junak

                           THE                                         OLYMPIAN                              WITHIN

                                   Canadian Cowboy Mike
                                               Ski Movie "Aladin's Wunderski"
                                               '81 Sahara Desert, Morocco
                                                                Photo: Fuzzy Garhammer 

Friends, thank you for all of your comments, likes and shares on my last blog.  For all our left brain audience who favor analytics, I’m pleased to announce that my inaugural posting has received more than “four figures” number of visitors so I’m stoked and encouraged to keep writing and sharing some of my life’s story with as much clarity and candor that my 52 year old mind can recall and form into comprehensible sentences. 

Unless you have been living on the moon or the Space Station, you well know that our global weather patterns are dramatically changing in real time.  In writing to you from Ottawa, Canada, we have taken a few direct blows from old mother nature due to the unpredictable jet stream only to be flattened by old man winter with a rather unusual flow from the polar vortex.  Yet somehow, us hardy Canadians (Scots) manage to survive and some even thrive throughout this virtually unprecedented season affecting all of North America, albeit, we’re all suffering from a bit of cabin fever!

Now that our Olympic hangover has had a little time to wear off after 16 days of intense competition including the toll on our emotions; sometimes feeling overwhelmed, riding the highs and accomplishments, proud and elated and at other times, feeling lowly and sad only to be replicated over and over again.  I think that enough time has elapsed (at least for me) for all of us to reflect on a marvelous Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  Once somebody said that, “The World is a Stage and We Each Must Play Our Part”.  That’s sort of how I see the Olympic Games with the caveat that it takes exceptional natural born athleticism, an indefatigable work ethic, relentless dedication and a burning desire to accomplish monumental goals.  In addition, those rare and gifted individuals amongst us who do make it all the way to the Games, must be willing to sacrifice a large chunk of their life and pay the price of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on a worldwide stage witnessed by more than a billion avid fans, many of whom embody the spirit of The Olympian Within.

For me The Olympian Within is, foregoing all of the incredible Olympic action on television and the internet on the first full day of competition, Saturday, February 8th in favour of meeting up with my good friend and former team-mate, Steve Hambling to check out his Fortune Freestyle Development Team at the
Steve H., Mike N. & Mike A.
'76 Mt. Cascades, Quebec
Photo: The Ottawa Citizen
“Glebe Rail Jam”.  After a hearty lunch from the nearby chip truck, I witnessed young Will, age 13, perform one of his first ever “450 - Pretzel” manoeuvres off the end of a 20 foot iron clad rail and land clean to the rapturous applause from an appreciative crowd of approximately 90 competitors, judges, coaches, parents and curious onlookers.  In that moment I had flashbacks of my own career which started with my 1st ever 360 degree spin at Vorlage, Quebec at the tender age of 11 with my eyes ablaze to  the possibilities of what other tricks I could accomplish in the coming years.  As happy as I was for the Dufor-Lapointe sisters Justine and Chloe who had just respectively won Canada’s gold and silver medals in freestyle mogul skiing the same day, I kept thinking back to Will and how proud he was to “Stick It” … his new trick, in competition, in front of his peers and parents. Oh, what a day it was for Will and for Canada!

In essence, The Olympian Within is really all of us who have a small or big dream, who work tooth and nail to achieve greatness.  While some make it all the way to the Olympic podium others are satisfied by winning a local rail jam competition for a medal and a $25 gift certificate.  Yet, some among us are struggling to just get by, hoping that over the next 4 years they can build a business, land a good job, get out of debt, lose that winter weight or just seek contentment and solace.  The Olympian Within is the strength of the human spirit to endure and rise in the face of adversity knowing that tomorrow and indeed over the next 4 years many goals will be set and achieved while being abound with optimism that life will get better.  While this is my take on the inner Olympian, we are privileged to hear from a few of my Olympian friends who were gracious enough to put their thoughts and beliefs on this topic into writing.

Sonny Schonbachler: 1st Place - Gold Medal – Lillehammer Winter Olympics ’94 - Swiss World Cup Team Aerials ’84-’94.  “It means one more dream - dreaming with the athletes of today, again.”    

Konrad Bartelski: 3-Time Winter Olympian - British Ski-Racing World Cup Team – Downhill ‘74-’82.  “It is where sport rises above politics and the best athletes from all the different sports compete at the highest level.”

Melanie Palenik-Simboli:  1st Place - Gold Medal - Calgary Winter Olympics ’88 – World Champion -Combined ‘89 - 7 World Cup Wins – USA World Cup Team – Combined - ’85-‘91.  “It is forever an earned life experience that I try my best to share with others in order to inspire them to find the best in themselves!”

Graham Wilkie: Olympian - Albertville Winter Olympics ’92 - World Record Holder - Speed Skiing ’87 – British Speed Skiing Team ’83-’88.  It is choosing a goal and the path towards that goal, the struggles, pain, emotions and the sacrifices that act as a cauldron to form the person that comes out on the other side.  I believe that almost anyone could make it to the Olympics and in essence, it is “The Olympian Within” that will get them there.”

            Flash back to 1985.  There I was at age 24, in the prime of my life, working towards my own lofty goals of trying to become the World Champion in ’86 and contending for an Olympic medal at the Calgary Winter Games in ’88 held in my adopted home country of Canada.  Of course, as many of you already know, my dreams of World Champs and the Olympics were never realized as on May 18th, 1985, I attempted a Full In - Full Out, double twisting-double back flip on my trampoline only to land on my neck and suffer a severe spinal cord injury leaving me a high level quadriplegic for the past 29 years.  While it might seem like a long time ago for some of you, it feels like only yesterday to me. 

Of course life does go on, regardless of circumstances and I’ll be damned if I was going to let a disability end my life.  Rather, my injury and long rehabilitation was going to be a major Game Changer, but
Why swim with the sharks when you can play with the whales.
'06 Mike & Hubert Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Photo: Mary Anne McPhee
also an opportunity to prove to others and ultimately to prove that I could pick myself up (not literally) and rebuild my life by refocussing, setting new/different goals and still maintaining a high quality of life that would satisfy my zest for living life to the fullest. 

If you’ve made it this far, please stick around and watch the following 27 minute video compilation of  Same Game – Different Rules and Taking on the World which are two British award winning documentaries that chronicled my life in those fragile and redefining years directly following my accident.  While we have distributed both documentaries to more than 40 countries around the world, we have also donated all of the profits to a charity that is very close to my heart called The Back Up Trust

            Friends, thanks for giving me such a strong boost of confidence and support as I continue down the path of sharing my stories on new media.  Be sure to look out for the next installment of Mike’s Quadrant around the end of March.  If you like what you’ve read and watched, please share this with your network of friends, offer your comments and “like” us on FB.  Hope to see you on the sunny side of the mountain!

Mike aka Nemies



  1. Great post Nemo! I have shared it with Will and the team!


  2. Great Nems - brings back so many memories!! Sarah


About Me

My photo

Skiing and Film Career:


At age 15, Mike Nemesvary set his goal to become the best freestyle skier in the world.  By the mid 1980's he held more than 40 titles in his sport including 3 World Cup Victories; 18 World Cup Podiums; 3 European; 11 Canadian and 5 British Championships.  Mike also developed a successful sideline as a skier and stunt performer in a number of television commercials, programs and feature films including James Bond’s “A View to a Kill” and Willy Bogner’s “Fire and Ice.” 


Spinal Cord Injury:


On May 18th, 1985 Mike’s life dramatically changed during a routine trampoline workout when he attempted a double twisting, double back somersault and blacked-out, landing on his neck instantly becoming a high level quadriplegic, paralysed from the chest down and losing full use of his legs, arms and hands.  Following months of intensive rehabilitation Mike picked up the pieces and began to rebuild his life.  He moved into an accessible home, learned to drive a modified sports car and became a proficient sit skier.  Wanting to share his life-affirming approach he started “The Back Up Trust”; a very successful UK-Based charity raising more than $20 million to enable people with spinal cord injuries to reintegrate back into society and surpass their aspirations by facilitating challenging sports.


Speaking Career and Disability Advocacy:


After completing his post-secondary education in Commerce, Mike developed and honed his skills to become a passionate, powerful and outspoken disability advocate.  He has represented many Not-For-Profit organizations including: World Committee on Disability; March of Dimes; Tetra Society of North America and National Access Awareness Week.  In 1992 he formed Mike Nemesvary & Associates and enjoys a successful and rewarding career as a professional speaker presenting 100's of keynotes, seminars and workshops to local, national and international organizations.  Some of his prestigious clients include: Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company; General Motors Corporation; Bell Canada; National Research Council; Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; Health Canada and the Canadian Injury Prevention Foundation.


‘Round the World Challenge:


Mike then decided to take the ultimate challenge by becoming the first quadriplegic to drive unassisted around the world.  More than 7 years in development, the ‘Round the World Challenge was a grueling circumnavigation lasting 7 months, through 20 countries and clocking more than 40,000 kilometres.  While navigating some of the most treacherous roads, enduring the most extreme weather conditions and temperatures on the planet, Mike also surmounted continual inaccessible stops and accommodations in an unrelenting, exhausting daily schedule.  During the formidable odyssey, Mike also managed to visit 40 medical institutions, gave 52 speaking engagements and wrote weekly columns.  The ‘Round the World Challenge successfully culminated in the Fall of 2001 and raised more than $1.5 million for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and research. His accomplishments received numerous honours and recognition in many countries including the “Key to the City” in Ottawa and the “Meritorious Service Medal” from the Governor General of Canada.


Personal Life:


Mike’s remarkable life has been extensively chronicled as the subject of six international and award winning television documentaries in addition to numerous magazine, newspaper articles, radio interviews and television appearances.  Mike presently resides south of Ottawa with his Partner, Mary Anne McPhee and “Sassy” and “Jigger”, both Labrador Retrievers “Certified Assistance Dogs”.  In his spare time Mikes enjoys sit-skiing, scuba diving, swimming, writing, backgammon, listening to music and playing the harmonica.