THE CITY SERIES TORONTO: ALEXANDRA ORLANDO


The sun is out in Toronto city today, but it’s super cold by our west coast standards - how are you jumping around in spandex?
When I texted my mom a photo of our shoot, she replied saying ‘typical Alex. Only you would be in a t-shirt in the middle of winter.’ I think that sums me up completely – I’m always up for anything!  To create the right movement or get the right shot, there was no question I was going to do whatever it took to do something fun and different. I really am an all or nothing type of lady, so when I put my mind to something I give it everything I have - hence the spandex. Thankfully, today was a freakishly sunny warm day for November in Toronto. 

Why did you choose to shoot at Sugar Beach and St. Lawrence Market today? 
Believe it or not, both locations have been the scenes of some incredibly significant moments in my life and will always mean something special to me. They are both the kind of places where when you walk by them you quietly smirk to yourself because it’s as if they know your secret.

Before Sugar Beach was discovered by bloggers and trend setters, it was this quiet slice of white sand that brought a bit of peace and serenity to the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto. It’s funny how just a few blocks south of Lake Shore can make all the difference. For five years, I worked out of the office building that shared this little piece of heaven on the lake. I found that whenever I needed to clear my head or reset, I would post up on one of those benches staring out over the water watching the planes come in. The people that have shared those moments with me, the conversations that were had and the memories made are truly my tribe. Whenever I’m in the area, I know I’m in my happy place.

Before moving to the St. Lawrence Market, I never thought I would settle in one place. The last few years I was constantly jumping from one place to another, but home was never home – it was always temporary. I can honestly say that I fell in love with this neighborhood the minute I got here. There’s a strong, silent kind of vibe to the community rooted in history, just close enough to the core but far enough away that there’s some peace and quiet. I always try to hit the market on the weekend to load up on groceries (and indulge in something delicious). I get some of my best creative work done sitting on the benches underneath the market, when it’s closed and empty. I don’t think I’ll ever leave now!


 

 


How are the Brooks runners performing?
The Brooks are awesome. They are my first pair and I’m always curious to try out new brands to see how they perform. I have bad knees and ankles from my gymnast days so I’m always looking for a shoe that is supportive and comfortable. I feel like I can wear these all day, every day. Not only do they look great, but they make me feel powerful and strong in and out of the gym.


How do you balance the athletic style with the dressier street style? 
My closet is definitely divided, as I constantly tap into both sides of my personality. I grew up competing in a performance sport where style and aesthetics were extremely important, but on the day-to-day only rocked casual sport wear. I now fuse the two together to create more of an après-sport look, which has definitely gotten more popular with brands like Stella McCartney partnering with Adidas among others. It’s great to see how sport continues to influence fashion and how I don’t have to ‘choose’ between the two anymore.

When did you first discover your love for gymnastics?
When I knew that I would give up other sports to go to gymnastics practice. I was an energetic kid that loved playing everything and anything. I was fortunate to have a great physical education program through my schools at the time and would run track, play soccer and make time for gymnastics outside of school. When I would ask my parents to take me to gymnastics instead of soccer or be practicing splits in the living room, I knew gymnastics was it for me. At a very young age, I was motivated and inspired to keep improving and wanted the challenge that gymnastics gave me. I started competing when I was 7-years-old and I never looked back.

What was it like to be at the 2008 Olympics representing Canada?
I get asked that question a lot and I feel like my answer never does it justice. There are not enough words or ways to describe what it felt like to represent my country at the Olympic Games, to call myself an Olympian. It is a moment you have dreamed of and replayed in your head over and over until all that fuels you is becoming the best in the world – and then you’re standing there waiting to march out at Opening Ceremonies underneath that beautiful Canadian flag and you’re an Olympian. There’s no other feeling that will ever match that. It was the biggest honour of my life and I will never forget every single moment of my time in Beijing. After years of training and pushing yourself mentally and physically every single day – you achieved the pinnacle of your sport. It’s surreal.

What’s the most important thing your career as a professional athlete taught you?
That I’m so much stronger than I ever thought I was. It’s those moments when you don’t think you can keep going - when you don’t think your legs can carry you through, when you’re hurting and tired. It’s those moments when you don’t think you’re good enough, when you doubt your abilities and your motivation. It’s when you’ve hit rock bottom and you drag yourself up and find the energy and will to keep pushing. It’s that inner strength that I carry with me always.

How has it affected what you’re doing now?
I approach everything with an “I won’t give up” attitude. I will do everything I can to try and make a situation better or get the best out of myself – whether it’s personal, work or fitness related. A big part of my motivational speaking is rooted in finding your inner strength and tapping into your potential in all areas of your life.

What advice would you give a young athlete who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I have a picture taped up at my desk at work that says ‘Fail Harder’ and it’s a constant reminder that to get the best out of yourself sometimes you’re going to have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. When you make mistakes, when you disappoint yourself – it inspires learning and growth that can take you to another level you never even thought you could find. When I missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympics, my whole world came crashing down all around me because I had never ‘lost’ something that I wanted. That year of self-discovery and not being satisfied with the status quo, made me the athlete that had the most successful four years of her career ending at the Olympic Games.

What made you choose the Wolverine 1000 Mile boots? 
I couldn’t resist the Wolverine’s as they are so sleek, stylish and perfect for taking my outfit from day to night. I love the lower, but wider heel so I can trek through the city without falling over with my generally massive purse (filled with the contents of my entire life).

Tell us why you love your city.
It truly is the most multi-cultural city in the world. I love that we are a fusion of people and experiences that create a dynamic unlike any other city in Canada. There are endless pockets of communities that bring a different flavor to every neighborhood, so regardless if you’ve lived here 6 months or 60 years there is always something new to explore. I love finding myself on a street I’ve never seen before and discovering a beautiful untouched place outside of the downtown core.


 

 





 


 Where is your favourite place to workout?
Outside - weather permitting! Give me some space and grass and I’m good. I’ve started hiking up the Don River or biking/running along the waterfront with friends, which is a nice change from hitting the weight room all the time. We’ve had incredible weather this winter so it’s great to see so many people still being active outdoors. 

 

What’s something new and fun people may not have heard about yet in Toronto?
DAYBREAKER. It's a morning movement event that brings together a community of like-minded individuals who want a healthy alternative to the night life scene. It’s worth waking up early to have a full on dance party promoting self-expression and creativity – before anyone else is even awake.  I have been raving about this awesome initiative that was created out of a social experiment in New York City. It launched in Toronto for the first time in Canada this month and was a huge success.

How do you like to represent Toronto - Tdot or The6?
The6 hands down. I feel like we as a city have evolved from the Tdot days. We’ve stepped up – we’ve hosted the world through the Pan Am Games, our pro sport teams have infused the city with a new kind of energy and vibe that is bringing our communities together like nothing I’ve seen before and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. I can’t wait to watch how Toronto continues to grow and the fashion, music, art and culture we keep putting out into the world.

What’s the next shoe purchase on SHOEme.ca?
I think this is the hardest question out of all of them! Sam Edelman is one of my favourite shoe brands - for fit, feel and a bit of flare. There are these stunning black Rylan leather boots that I have my eye, but I’m also a big fan of the black Belinda booties with all that fringe!


Keep an eye out for Alex in the build-up to Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on CBC and follow her on 

Instagram and Twitter


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