Katherina Matousek-Taylor has been on a strange and wonderful journey.
1968. The tanks rolled in, and we rolled out. At four years old, the prospect of a communist revolution in, then, Czechoslovakia, was lost on me, but not my parents. Leaving everything behind – a great home, solid jobs, and all our friends and family – was impossibly difficult, but we did it anyway. My mother always said they wanted a better life for me in Canada, and with little more than a suitcase and a few dollars, we headed for Vancouver.
Before leaving, I caught the attention of a figure skating coach who encouraged my parents to put me into lessons. Arriving in Vancouver, my parents did just that, and in the blink of an eye, I went from being four years old to standing on the ice representing Canada at the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984, in Pairs Figure Skating.
It came with a price. Leaving home at sixteen, being alone without my family, it was easy to fall into the traps that were waiting for many young athletes. Yet to all the world, I was a happy and accomplished Olympian without a care in the world. “Lucky” is what I often heard.
On the world stage, with millions of people watching, the music started, I shut my eyes and did what I had trained a lifetime to do. Behind those closed eyes, I also had to block out years of insecurity, depression, loneliness, and injury. The pressure of making my parents’ decision worthwhile was sometimes unbearable and all while being judged on how I looked, my weight, and a million other things that come with public life. The constant attention and criticism were impossible to keep out of my private life.
Today, with the support of my beautiful family, I better appreciate all that competitive sports has given me, yet I sometimes still struggle to re-enter the world of “normal” – something much harder to do than most realize. In my quiet moments though, I can’t always escape the darkness and need to fight hard to hear the music again. A strange and wonderful journey indeed.