We’ve all had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But what happens when it’s caught in the first episode of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge on national television and is shown across the country?
“I went blank at first, and then panic kicked in,” Mitchell Wendland, a spin instructor and cheerleader from Edmonton, Alberta says of the moment he realized that he was not going to be able to climb the rope wall at the beginning of the first team challenge at Whistler’s Olympic Ski Jump Hill.
Always a team player and ready to jump in, Mitchell had swapped places with team member Zalie Tshuma who wasn’t confident being first over the wall when Coach Clara Hughes suggested her for the position.
“I think my biggest downfall is knowing that I haven’t done anything like this before. I didn’t know my limits,” he remembers, “I should have known to say, ‘hey, I’m not feeling great about this.’ But I decided to try it.”
Mitchell was defeated and felt that he had let the whole team down. But coach Clara wanted her team to support each other no matter the result, “the most important thing for Mitchell to know in this moment is that he is enough.”
“We bonded as a team before the challenge even started,” said Mitchell, and Clara, “just genuinely wanted me to be happy and to know that there were no repercussions to that.”
“I think it’s important to own that moment because everyone’s got to have downfalls. Life doesn’t happen exactly how you think it’s going to play out — and you have to learn to adapt to those struggles and most importantly, learn from them.”
According to Mitchell, that first challenge set the tone for team Blue for the rest of the competition. “We had a saying that ‘we only go up from there’ because we truly hit rock bottom at day one, so there was nowhere else to go.”
“I was really happy to be able to fight through anything and know how to challenge yourself and then most importantly, how to pick yourself back up from those hard times,” says Mitchell, “and I’m going to carry that with me throughout my entire life.”