‘I’d really like to be Robin Bone who went to the Olympics…not just Robin Bone, that pole-vaulter with the helmet.’
And now your first thought is, ‘WHY IS SHE WEARING A HELMET?’
From gymnastics to pole vault, bully-target and victor, here’s Robin’s story…
Robin currently represents Canada in the pole vault, and is on target to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She is the picture of confidence, so comfortable in her skin, aware of her identity and purpose ‘to inspire people’ and a proponent for beating the bully through a fearless, warrior spirit. But until you speak with her, you wouldn’t imagine the journey she has faced to achieve such qualities.
After sustaining her 5th concussion by the age of 16, Robin’s original sporting dream – to be a medal-winning gymnast – was over. But Robin’s story shows us the truth of the maxim: ‘when one door closes another door opens’ if we recognize we are more than what we lost.
When Robin speaks of her challenges, I listen intently.
‘I missed 3 months of school, was in a dark room…and I was just waiting and waiting to get back to gymnastics.’
‘I was kind of going through some post-concussion syndrome. Like I still have some memory issues.’
Despite all this, she remained hopeful that her return would be imminent. Even when she went for a consultation, the words ‘not yet, not yet’ instilled hope (and frustration, of course). So when one day, after over half a year of waiting, her consultant told her ‘it’s not safe for you to return to gymnastics’ they had an unexpected finality to it. In her mind, this period was simply a ‘really, really tough’ waiting game. But now her dream was officially over.
‘[The] completely different tone made me realise he’s not talking about today, tomorrow, or a couple months. He’s saying EVER. And that seriously felt like just the biggest knife right in my gut, and like I immediately just started crying. I cried a lot.’
‘For so long I just let gymnastics define me. To everybody I was ‘that gymnast’.’
‘I just kind of fell into this dark place; I lost who I was as a person. It [gymnastics] was my whole life…I didn’t have anything to do. I had no purpose.’
Purpose is powerful. Even at the age of 16, Robin recognised the power of purpose. So to lose the very thing that defines you as a person, that gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and thrive is tough. It took some wise words from Robin’s dad for her to rediscover purpose in something far greater than a career title.
Gymnastics wasn’t who you are; it’s just what you did.
‘He told me: “You know, Robin, gymnastics wasn’t who you are; it’s just what you did. You can bring your strengths, personality and your ability to want to be the best at something to something else.”’
And that’s what she did.
After being recognised as ‘that old gymnast’ by her team track coach (okay, labels help sometimes!), he immediately told her ‘you’re gonna be our pole-vaulter’. And although she was cleared to fly through the air again, it was subject to the proviso: ‘as long as you wear a helmet’. The helmet clearly has one purpose: her safety and protection, but to me it is also a clear image of inspiration, and to others still it was a beacon for bullying.
‘I was jumping like as high as this tape like 5 feet high and it was so embarrassing… It is hard going from something that you’re good at to something where you’re literally the last like every time. And on top of that you’re wearing this helmet so people are talking.
I was standing in line behind [the best girl in the state] in the convenience store and I could see her with her friends and I was thinking, maybe I can talk to her…because she is so cool.
They were laughing and I started to kind of listen in to get in on the conversation.
And then I realised they were laughing about me – the girl with the helmet.
But I didn’t want to go off and run and cry in a corner. I thought, ‘Okay, you think you know helmet girl? I’ll show you helmet girl!’
This was a turning point. Picture ‘my haters are my motivators’ in action.
‘I just went crazy about watching YouTube videos…haywire into learning. The next meet I jumped a foot higher, the following week I jumped a foot higher. And then I had states… I ended up winning because it came down to our last jump. And she missed it. And I made it… I’m not a resentful person, but it just felt so good.’
Bullying cannot always be prevented, but following Robin’s anti-bullying response can help you rise above. Don’t remain a victim. ‘I think people just often feel bad for people being bullied instead of teaching them how to handle it and kind of mentally just be strong.’ She is of course in no way condoning bullying, but she is viewing it from the lens of an empowered victim turned victor, and she does specify ‘as long as it’s not physical bullying’, standing up for yourself helps you to develop a thicker skin. I know some people understandably will have difficulty aligning themselves with this concept, but I also think going through trials and adversities in life – including being on the receiving end of harsh, nasty words and gossip – makes you stronger.
‘Being 16 and just having to go through so much was just crazy but I think it just puts so much into perspective now that I feel like I can just totally do anything.’
The helmet is a powerful visual representation of her innate fearlessness and desire to ‘become the best eventually’ and Robin herself freely admits: ‘I like the helmet.’ ‘Just because people see that I’m not willing to let certain things stop me. And if you want something bad enough you can make things work.’
‘Sports do not define you, you define your sport.’
You are more than a label. This is Robin’s story. And that inspires me. Robin is more than a teen who pole-vaults. She is a ‘big baker’ – not the sugar-free, zero-fat kind either – because ‘everything tastes better with butter’, a business student in her senior year at Western University, and a dreamer with big goals. She is gutsy, passionate and inspirational. And most importantly, she is undefinable.
‘I wouldn’t say I’m a pole-vaulter. I pole vault, but I’m Robin Bone.’
Robin’s Impressive Sporting Stats:
15x Gymnastics State Champion Gold Medals
2x CIS National Pole Vault Champion and Record Holder
Canadian Junior Pole Vault Champion
Canadian Youth Pole Vault Champion
Personal Best: 4.36m
Want to follow Robin’s Road to Rio & more?
Connect with her on Instagram & Twitter: @RobinBone & visit her website.
Thanks for reading! Check out the Motivational Stories page for more inspiring stories. #MotivateInspire