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Olympian Berezowski shares winning philosophy

Former ice dancer writes about championship attitude in new book

Barbara Berezowski preaches the power of positive thinking in her book.
Barbara Berezowski preaches the power of positive thinking in her book. (Courtesy of Barbara Berezowski)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/28/2013) - Before compatriots Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became the first Canadian ice dance team to win Olympic gold, two-time Canadian ice dance champion Barbara Berezowski (winandsparkle.com) and partner David Porter created some Olympic history of their own as the very first ice dance team to compete on Olympic ice. At the time, drawing first in the very first compulsory dance seemed rather disappointing, but today it's a proud part of skating history.

Berezowski recalls her memories of the Olympics, as well as the road she took to get there, in her new book Win at Life and Positively Sparkle: An Olympian's Advice for Success, which was released Feb. 6.

"I was writing things down in my journal and on my blog," Berezowski, 58, said. "Then it became more and more of a book as I kept going. It started originally as an eight-page pamphlet and ended up being a book. It took me over two years."

In the book, Berezowski discusses her path to becoming an Olympic athlete, her professional skating career that followed and, finally, how she overcame adversity in her personal life by utilizing lessons learned in skating. She sees herself as a motivator who endeavors to tell people how to overcome life's obstacles and live life in a positive way.

"My thought, my passion and my focus is all to have people look at life in a positive way," Berezowski said. "I got that from my father. My father, who passed away this year, was an amazing soul. He always managed to look at life in the most incredible way.

"He was always so appreciative and loving," she continued. "It was his mindset of how he looked at life. A lot of that rubbed off on me. That's definitely something I want to pass on to everyone else."

Her determination to "win and sparkle" was abundantly evident during her skating days, when her stunning good looks were often recognized. A group of European journalists named her "Miss Olympics" in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976. A few months earlier, she'd even had some success in beauty pageants, winning Miss Toronto and going on to compete in Miss Canada, although she could not accept any of the prizes, as that would have jeopardized her amateur status.

After finishing their amateur career at the 1976 World Championships, Berezowski and Porter joined Toller Cranston's The Ice Show, and when that show closed, they went into Ice Follies. They won the world professional championships in Jaca, Spain, and continued to perform until the early 1980s.

Berezowski considered coaching, but she became frustrated with the then Canadian Figure Skating Association's coaching accreditation system and left the sport. She married and had two sons, now 22 and 24. Tragedy struck the family's lives when her husband died of a heart attack at age 41.

It was then that she turned to the lessons learned as an athlete to pull her through.

"When you're a skater, you fall down and you have to get back up," she said. "Even though you do have setbacks in life, there are ways to get through it."

Prior to her husband's death, Berezowski had started to develop a career as an emcee/host and motivational speaker that began when she served as the founding chairperson of the board of governors of the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame.

Now that her children are adults, she's focusing her energies on pursuing her dreams. Publication of her book is a huge part of the process.

"I'm going to keep my creative juices flowing and see where it takes me," she said.

Another huge step for Berezowski was reuniting with the sport of figure skating. She attended the 2013 Canadian Championships in Mississauga, Ontario, where she ran into old friends and competitors, some of whom she hadn't seen in more than three decades.

"I had to give my head a shake to realize how many years have gone by, because it doesn't feel like that many when you're there," she said. "To be in that environment, it felt exactly the same, but you can definitely see they've come so far."