Mellisa Hollingsworth’s illustrious skeleton career came to a close at the end of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in February, and for the first time in almost two decades, the 34-year-old Eckville native is now embracing life away from the track.
Hollingsworth’s 19-year career took her all around the world, establishing herself as one of the sport’s best along the way.
A bronze-medal win at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy was just one of many career highlights that fuelled the competitive mentality and desire to succeed that she still carries today.
“You can’t be afraid of failure — that’s the wrong kind of energy,” she said. “You have to take thing one day at a time, and if you have an ultimate goal, you surround yourself with people you want to be like who can help raise you up.
“Maybe you’re not successful on the first try, but who is? Not very many people.”
Now pursuing a career in real estate, Hollingsworth has spent more than a few years on the road traversing the globe and travelling from competition to competition.
It was during those travels she says she learned the true value of teamwork.
“You’re dealing with different personalities on your team, you’re travelling through Europe and you’re gone for five months and living out of a bag with people that you learn to get along with,” she said. “I was lucky that we had an amazing team with interesting characters through the 19 years.
“I learned how to interact with them, and yet I was competing against them.”
Hollingsworth first entered the sport at a time when it was relatively unknown, and before it was added to the Olympics fold.
Since then, she’s seen it grow significantly, and she’s proud of the role she played in its evolution.
“I was able to evolve as the sport evolved, and it’s been an Olympic sport for four different Olympics now,” she said. “I’m most proud to (have been) a part of that.”
Hollingsworth now shares her life story with audiences across the country, where she describes overcoming adversity with both personal determination and the support of others.
She encourages people to support others in the same way she was supported throughout her career, in both victory and defeat.
“That’s one thing I love to share with kids when I go into schools,” she said. “If you see someone who’s having a bad day, go and ask them what’s up, or be a bit chummy with them, because people don’t understand the power that they have with positivity.”
After failing to reach the podium at her home Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, Hollingsworth felt like she’d let her country down. Support from every corner of the country, however, quickly helped her get back on her feet and continue doing what she did best.
“It’s pretty easy to beat yourself up, and you want to crawl into a hole and never re-surface,” she said. “To my surprise, there were thousands of letters that came in from Canada saying how proud (people) were of their Olympic athletes, regardless of being on that Olympic podium.”
Hollingsworth says she’s proud of all she accomplished in the sport, and greatly values what it’s taught her about life both on and off the track. She’s also grateful for the life it gave her.
“The people you get to meet along the way and the lessons that you learn — it’s all about the memories that you’ve made,” she said. “I think it’s been a pretty cool life.”