BC Premier Christy Clark: Up Close and Personal

Christy ClarkThings You Didn’t Know About Premier Christy Clark

By Carol Crenna

Despite the demands of anyone in her position, especially before the election, BC Premier Christy Clark likes to stay as grounded as possible.

Burnaby-born Clark likes to spend time in the Vancouver community where she now lives, from championing farmers’ markets to chumming with other hockey moms. Here she talks about life when she is not at work.

CAROL: How does your day begin?

CHRISTY CLARK: It’s 9:15 a.m. and I’ve already done a scrum (a relatively short stand-up team meeting for feedback and check-in with each member) and conducted a speech in Surrey. I was out the door by 7:00 a.m. 

CAROL: How much sleep do you get?

CHRISTY CLARK: I try to get to be bed between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. every night. My goal is to get eight hours. Sleep is important to me to be able to do a good job. 

My bed is my favourite piece of furniture! It is a super comfortable foam Tempur-Pedic mattress and I love it.

For me, sleeping in my own bed in my own room in my own home is cherished because I travel a lot so I’m often not in my own bed. The moment I get into bed and lay my head on the pillow, it is often one of the best moments of my day because it’s so relaxing.

CAROL: Do you take work to bed? 

CHRISTY CLARK: I never take work to bed; research shows that working on your laptop in bed interferes with sleep signals. So I’m downstairs in my home office when I’m working, but in my bedroom, I sleep.

Well, the only other thing I do in bed at night is when my son crawls in with me and we read a book together. Reading with kids is important, but this time is also an important wind-down for him at night. 

Occasionally, I will fall asleep right beside him because I wind down, too. I really treasure those moments because I know they won’t last forever. 

CAROL: Why did you choose the home where you live?

C Clark 2CHRISTY CLARK: I chose my house because it’s in a great neighbourhood. There are a lot of families nearby that I now know and like. On the same street, there are those who have kids that go to my son’s school so we have been able to carpool over the years.

We have become a community; my neighbours across the lane, for example, have a huge garden and are always supplying us with fresh vegetables and figs. 

CAROL: Where is it and how long have you lived there?

CHRISTY CLARK: I have been in Vancouver’s City Hall area since 2005. 

CAROL: What does your home look like?

CHRISTY CLARK: My home’s style is casual. It’s a place where I don’t fuss too much about details or having everything really neat and tidy. This is because it’s just not possible in my life with my 11-year-old son. Ours is a kid-friendly house; we always have Hamish’s friends over.

I can’t have a home where I need to worry about spills on furniture, or the occasional mini hockey puck going astray and flying across a room. There are a lot of other details that are more important that I need to worry about. 

CAROL: How would you describe your clothing style?

Christy Clark --photo the leftcoastCHRISTY CLARK: I have become less casual in my clothing style since becoming Premier. When having your picture taken all of the time, you are confronted by the experience of looking at a photo of yourself and saying, “Oh dear.” For me that happens a lot.

I have had to learn to be a lot more fastidious about outward appearance. 

CAROL: Do you miss the freedom that “the other side” gave you?

CHRISTY CLARK: To some extent. While (working as a journalist) in radio, I could go to work right after throwing on a pair of jeans because it really didn’t matter. It does take more time and planning to dress now.

I have to consider, “What am I doing today? Am I going to be walking around a farm so I’ll need to wear my boots, and then going to an anniversary party for the founding of The People’s Republic of China that requires a dress?” 

CAROL: What was home like while growing up? 

CHRISTY CLARK: I’m from a family of four kids. And our home, we always had six around the dinner table and it was quite a boisterous atmosphere. My father was a teacher so it was a casual house, too. But that doesn’t mean there were no rules.

CAROL: Who decorated your home? 

CHRISTY CLARK: I decorated my home. But since the house was new when I moved in 2005, I have not really done anything major to it. I simply painted a few walls and decorated with the same furniture that I had in my last home, which goes quite well there.

The kitchen design is a very modern open concept, joining the family room, which I really like.

CAROL: What is your favourite room?

CHRISTY CLARK: The family room is my favourite place because that is where my son and I spend the most time together. It is where we sit on the floor and play Scrabble, it’s where he and other kids play mini hockey. And, since it is attached to kitchen, we spend time there eating meals. 

CAROL: Do you cook? 

CHRISTY CLARK: Yes. When you have children, it is really important to cook at home, so I do as much as I can. Otherwise they end up eating out all of the time, which is not healthy, and it’s a bad lesson for them for alter in their life.

Because it’s just the two of us, I often cook a meal for four and then freeze the rest for another time. I do that type of plan-ahead meal preparation on weekends.

CAROL: Do you cook healthy meals? 

CHRISTY CLARK: Eating meals is an area in which I’m not casual about. It’s not just about the food eaten; I really believe that kids need to eat healthy meals around a family dinner table, where you can share and talk about your day.

Sharing about the day is really important for kids. They feel and do better when they have that connection, especially around the table where there is no distraction from TV and computers, and you focus on each other while there.

CAROL: What are two things that you love to use in your kitchen?

CHRISTY CLARK: 1. My high-tech Nespresso Coffee Maker2. My Salt & Pepper cookbook by Vancouver’s Caren McSherry; I use it all of the time.

CAROL: What in your home would you never ever part with?

Christy_Clark_by_Kris_Krug_05CHRISTY CLARK: It’s a piece of artwork in my living room that my mother created on the beach in the Gulf Islands. She was a family therapist, but also a painter and multimedia artist.

It is a beautiful, modern piece done on wood with Plaster of Paris. It’s also about four feet long by four feet high and is heavy. My mother was a very talented artist; every time I look at it, I think of her and how much joy she got from being on the Gulf Islands — in nature and at the beach. 

CAROL: Do you have other display pieces that you like?

CHRISTY: For my 40th birthday, my mother gave me an absolutely spectacular 18-inch decorative ceramic bowl made by Galiano Island artist Bill Boyd.

The sparkling blue glaze’s hue changes depending on the light and where you are standing in the room. I have it on display in my family room — high on a shelf away from the mini-hockey. 

Also, I have a very large, fairly old atlas that my mother gave me that I love.

CAROL: Do you get much exercise? 

CHRISTY CLARK: I run; I have a treadmill at home and I also like to run outside. I also make it to a 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning boot camp every once in a while. It’s a way to stay in shape, but it’s also about fellowship.

All of my friends from book club – which I no longer have time to go to – and a lot of the hockey moms I know go, so it’s my chance to reconnect with them. 

CAROL: Your son plays hockey? 

CHRISTY CLARK: My only “hobby” right now is watching my son play hockey. He has two 6 a.m. practices each week so we’re up at 4:45 a.m. to get there for 5:30 a.m. I love it because I get to see him perform at something that he is passionate about. 

The fellowship with my hockey family – meaning parents and neighbours – is really important to me; they have become some of my best friends. We’re all at the same place in our lives, raising our kids.

They are very supportive, and since we all roll into the practices before even brushing our teeth and showering in the morning, they take you as you are. 

CAROL: What is the best thing about coming home after a day at the Premier’s office? 

CTV News--Christy ClarkCHRISTY CLARK: Seeing my son. The hardest thing about this job is how much I miss my son and how much he misses me. We spend as much time together as we can, and we both work hard to make sure that it’s quality time, but it still isn’t as much time as we used to get.

As soon as I get home from work or an event, he gives me a full-body hug, and then I get him upstairs and tuck him into bed, or if home in time, I cook dinner, or pull leftovers out of the freezer.   



Motivation and Training Tips from the Hamelin Brothers Olympic Speed Skaters

the Hamelin BrothersOlympic Athletes in Action:  Tips from the Hamelin Brothers Speed Skaters 

By Carol Crenna

Connecting with Olympic athletes when they are competing isn’t easy. They’re busy. Interviews for this article with the speed skating Hamelin brothers, Charles and Francois, were done by telephone from Europe, the World Cup in Alberta, and a training rink in Montreal.

We know that the Hamelin brothers of Sainte-Julie, PQ, won gold at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver for short track speed skating.

But since then, Charles Hamelin has earned several medals including a gold in the 500-metre World Cup event Feb 2, 2013 in Sochi, Russia, and then he and girlfriend Marianne St. Gelais both won short track bronze Mar 8, 2013 at the world short track championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

After the Olympics, his young brother Francois helped lead the team to a gold medal in the 2011 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Sheffield, England, and has been working hard to keep up with his brother ever since.

Here, both Charles and Francois Hamelin took time out to talk about their training, and teach us how to take what we know about health – eating right and exercising – and actually apply it to produce results. Let them inspire you.

charles hamelinCHARLES HAMELIN 

Charles Hamelin, 27, started competing at age 10, coached by his father, who is now Olympic team leader. Charles has won approximately 40 medals including 12 golds, and including the two most recent wins. 

CAROL: Do you eat well?

CHARLES HAMELIN: We don’t have a strict diet to follow but we do have a nutritionist to give us guidelines.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me when I began living on my own because I didn’t know how to cook. But it’s been over four years now that I have been making my own food so I’m getting better. 

I like MacDonald’s, but only have fast food once every month or two. I have to consume a lot of calories so am constantly eating healthy food.

I live with my girlfriend, speed skater Marianne St-Gelais, and we’re always snacking on fruit, vegetables, energy bars, nuts and chocolate milk to get back nutrients used during practice. We always keep a lot of fruit and vegetables on hand in our home. 

CAROL: How many hours do you train? 

CHARLES HAMELIN: We work out six times a week, twice per day which works out to five to six hours per day all year long. Each practice is from two to three hours long. 

CAROL: Do you have a life outside of training? 

CHARLES HAMELIN: We try to. Since Marianne is also competing in speed skating, we have exactly the same lifestyle so it helps. 

CAROL: Do you ever not feel like training?

Charles and Francois with teamCHARLES HAMELIN: There are always times during the year when you wake up and don’t feel like training. But we live an eight-minute walk to the rink so sometimes when I don’t feel like working out, I will push myself just to get there.

And when I see the other teammates, the ambiance – and their energy while working out in the same room – helps to motivate me to train.

One of the best parts about competing even in my teens was meeting friends from throughout the province, who you’d then see at competitions. Now I have friends around the world, from England to Korea, for the same reason. 

And the coaches, in addition to the team, are really good at making me want to do more while there. 

CAROL: Aren’t you competitive with teammates?

CHARLES HAMELIN: We’re very competitive with each other and try to push each other to go faster and be better. I’m not competitive with my girlfriend, though, since men and women don’t train together. We are stronger so there is not competitive environment with women. 

CAROL: You are the star of the team ─ you have won so many competitions. Does that make you feel responsible that you have to help others?

CHARLES HAMELIN: Yes. I try to help them. A few years ago, I was one of the youngest – a rookie there to learn from others – but now, at 27, I am more experienced than others. Therefore, I try to show an example to younger, newer members by doing the sport right. 

I learned how to speed skate when I was nine years old, but I first went on the ice just for fun at three or four years old. And whenever our family took a winter vacation, my parents always took their three sons to a rink, lake or river to skate on because we all liked it. 

CAROL: Is it still fun?

CHARLES HAMELIN: I began speed skating because it was fun, and only do it now because it’s fun. And I will only do it until it doesn’t become fun… or until I am too old to qualify for the team. My goal right now is to do well at the 2014 Olympics.

CAROL: Have you ever had a serious injury?

CHARLES HAMELIN: No but I have had several concussions and sprains. I always try to stay safe. 

CAROL: Isn’t it difficult to skate as fast as you can, but at the same time also try to be safe? 

CHARLES HAMELIN: It is. Our top speed can reach 60 kilometres per hour, which seems crazy, but then again, skiing can reach 150 km per hour.

While training, our rink has no boards, just mats placed all around the area where we skate on the ice, so when we fall the mats protect us from any injury. This makes us more confident and able to push harder while we’re actually competing. 

The outfit we wear is made from Kevlar which protects from all types of cuts, which occur only if we fall and bump into someone else’s skate. 

When I fall, and it doesn’t happen often, for a couple of days during training afterward I’m a little shakier on the ice, and don’t push myself 100 percent because I’m afraid to fall again. And then I forget about it, and become confident again, because the falls happen so rarely.

But I know speed skaters who remain afraid to push themselves after an injury, and it can end their career. It takes mental training. A team psychologist helps during these situations.

Being confident in yourself and your body, no matter what happens, is a quality that you must have to compete. 

Francois Hamelin 2FRANCOIS HAMELIN 

François Hamelin was the 2008 Canadian Champion, and had four medals with the team and two individual medals in his first two World Cup seasons. He helped his team win a gold medal in his first Olympics. 

CAROL: When did you start skating? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: I started skating when I was 5, and my older and younger brother were both already skating then. I just turned 25. 

CAROL: When did you start competing? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: When I began competing at age 12, my brother Charles was already competing.

We began competing at a young age because Quebec’s facilities and teams are more established than elsewhere. If you do well in Quebec, you have a good chance of doing well across Canada. 

CAROL: Can you explain exactly what you do to train? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: In the morning, we have a warm-up for an hour, and then ice time for two hours, and then a cool down period. And then in the afternoon, it’s weight training, circuit training or more ice time.

We don’t do very much upper body training, because it’s not as necessary for the sport, but we do some so as not to become too unbalanced. 

CAROL: What do you eat to train well? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: We make sure that we get adequate protein, carbs and fats in our diet. We can relax our diet on weekends and have more foods that aren’t considered healthy. We never have to be hungry. 

CAROL: Competing with your brother, who is two years older. Do you feel you’ve always been following in his footsteps? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: When I was younger I did, but now that we are both competing together, and after the Olympics, I don’t. Even though he may be the superstar of the team, we know that we can all do well. We have a good relationship. 

I also have a brother who is two years younger that is was a speed skater, but no longer trains; we all trained together in the past when my father was the team coach. He didn’t have the same passion that Charles and I do.

It is our life, and when you qualify for the Olympics and then win an Olympic medal, it makes you want to focus on it even more. 

CAROL: Your father has had a major influence on your training.

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: My father was a motivating factor, as my coach for 12 years, and now is a team leader who ensures that our travel and other details are in place. But he no longer has direct involvement in our training program.

CAROL: Was it difficult having your father always trying to push you to become better?

Not really, because it’s always been this way. I don’t know anything else. He was a very good coach for the team. 

CAROL: What do you do when you’re not feeling motivated?

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: You have to talk about it. If you keep it to yourself, you are going to have a long year. You have ups and downs.

Though I love skating so I always want to be on the ice, for the other part of training, I sometimes feel that I just want to stay home. Talking about it with the coach makes me feel better.

CAROL: Do you get another life outside of training? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: We do have some spare and social time, especially when it is with the team. My other friends who don’t compete found it difficult — when they’d ask me to go out, it would never fit with my training program.

I feel privileged to be able to compete, especially leading up to the Olympics, so all I want to do is train to take advantage of it. 

CAROL: Do you worry about falling? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: I do worry about falling, and everybody does. When we push ourselves, we’re always on edge. I have had four concussions, but I’m still in one piece.

CAROL: What goes on in your head while racing? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: It can depend on the race. But within the last three years, I have learned a lot and gained more confidence. I try to see myself on the podium when not actually racing, but I have realized that you can’t let thoughts go on in your head as you race — you have to focus only on your race plan. It can cost you a medal if you think about anything else or hesitate. 

I’m confident that my body is ready and prepared for the race, so don’t think about what it does, or how it feels, or what I have to do during the race. 

CAROL: How fast can you skate? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: It depends on how tired I am, and the ice conditions. But the 500 metre world record was broken not long ago by quite a lot so who knows? We just have to keep going, and see how far the sport can reach.

CAROL: Do you have advice for young skaters? 

FRANCOIS HAMELIN: You have to like skating a lot, and you have to go for it. You never know what’s going to happen so don’t limit yourself. I’ll admit that I always wanted to go to the Olympics, but when I was younger and not yet on the national team, I didn’t think that not going would mean my career would not be successful. My goal was only to become better. 


Original article appeared in VISTA Magazine by Carol Crenna using these interviews.