Two time Canadian Olympian Martha McCabe announced her retirement yesterday. At the same time, she is launching a new initiative, Head to Head.
Head to Head connects young athletes with Olympians where they can share coaching tips, motivational speeches, and personal mentorship. Ultimately, Olympians will visit a swim club two times a month. The Olympian can give a motivational speech, or be present and help out with a practice. One on one mentorship is also available through this program. The benefit is that when information comes from an Olympic athlete, it sometimes hits a little closer to home with a young athlete than it would coming from a coach or parent. From a monthly fee of $25 an athlete, 2/3rds of it would go to the Olympian mentor athlete. McCabe describes the biggest goal is getting the message across, athlete to athlete, that they have gone through similar struggles growing up. “Head to Head provides mentorship to youth allowing them to grow positive self-images at the most crucial part of their life; a time when they are sometimes less inclined to comply with ideas from parents, coaches, and teachers.” Martha has seen first-hand the struggles of retirement and the need for athletes to be giving back in their communities, and McCabe believes that the potential of this initiative Head to Head is beneficial to both parties involved.
The 2011 World Championship bronze medalist has always had her eyes set on the podium. In London 2012 she finished 5th in the 200-meter breaststroke, and upset with her performance she buckled down for another four years and set her sights to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. The Toronto native finished her degree at the University of British Columbia and made the switch to the High Performance Centre – Ontario lead by Ben Titley. At the 2013 World Championships she placed in the top 8. Her solid block of training and her high-profile performance was derailed in 2014 by clavicle stress fracture. Although the stress fracture kept her from her best, she managed to make both the Canadian Commonwealth and Pan Pacific Championship teams that year at Canadian Trials. She placed 6th at the Commonwealth Games and 8th at the Pan Pacific Championships. Battling and bouncing back from injury, she was back in the pool in Toronto training for Kazan World Championships 2015. Placing 21st, McCabe made the decision to travel back out to the West Coast to train with her previous and known Breaststroke coach, Jozsef Nagy at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver. There, she had training partner Tera Van Beilen (2012 Canadian Olympian) to train beside leading into Canadian Olympic Trials. Qualifying for her second Olympics at Canadian Trials last April, her move back west proved beneficial. She went on to finish 23rd at the 2016 Olympic games.
Coming into the final wall at the Olympic Games, McCabe said to have felt a sense of relief once she finished. Being a veteran swimmer, she has seen a lot of Olympic athletes leave their sport and find themselves a little lost out in the real world. HERE you can see Martha’s old teammates and previous world record holder Annamay Pierse and other Canadian National team members discuss the disarray that comes with retirement from swimming.
Martha planned for her post swimming life though. Martha Joined the RBC Olympians program in 2013. This program places athletes in a workplace environment while supporting their training through funding and flexible hours. Back in 2013, McCabe was quoted “The number one reason I chose to apply (to the RBC Olympians program) was because I’ve always been keen on keeping my life outside of the pool rolling.” McCabe continued “I find that it benefits my swimming performance, having something to think about when you go home, but also obviously for when I’m done swimming I don’t want to be left high and dry, I want to have something that I’ve been working on and can continue to pursue.” McCabe has done just that by founding this new initiative, Head to Head.