Olympic athlete lives life to the fullest

By: Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
Competing at the Summer Olympics in 2000 was the culmination of everything Jason Gervais worked for.
The then 24-year-old Timmins native competed in men’s discus throw at the Olympics held in Sydney, Australia. He remembers walking out onto the field and seeing his family along with his uncle and grandmother at the stadium.
“I also saw myself on the jumbotron and realized that millions of viewers all over the world were watching me,” Gervais says. “I knew I was physically ready to compete but mentally I was clearly not. I had next to no experience with that kind of mental pressure before.”
Although Gervais didn’t qualify for the final round, he’s proud he was among the Top 20 discus throwers in the world that year. Plus, he learned a valuable lesson from the Olympic experience.
“You can train physically all your life but having the mental strength to back it up is the winning combination,” he says.
Gervais, 45, is the president of Timmins Financial Inc.
As a young boy, Gervais had always been the tallest and strongest among his peers. In middle school, he played hockey and in high school, he joined the basketball team and tried shot put and discus.
“Thériault at the time didn’t even have a discus or shot put circle, I was throwing out of the grass but I did like the feeling of winning and that’s when I decided to get a bit more serious about it and take it a bit further,” he says. His father, who held the discus record at Thériault, coached him in his early years.
Gervais finished Grade 13 in Toronto where he was trained by Canada’s track and field head coach Bogdan Poprawski. It was a leap of faith moving away from family, Gervais says, and he trained hard while attending Central Technical School.
The day he competed in Ohio with Central Tech’s track team was one of his best days because all of his hard work had paid off. Gervais says he broke every single record in both shot put and discus and won the MVP. That opened doors to full athletic scholarships.
An incident with OFSAA, when Gervais initially wasn’t allowed to compete in the provincials until the court ruled in his favour, taught him to not be bothered by what people say.
“I had never worked so hard to achieve something and it was so bittersweet when I had that gold medal around my neck,” he says. “This is where it finally sunk in when I realized that some people don’t want to see others succeed and they try to prevent good things from happening to others for selfish reasons. Stick with the positive people in your life and keep going after your dreams and never give up.”
Gervais, who studied in Arizona and Wyoming, credits the throws coach Larry Judge to his successes on and off the field, saying Judge was the one that made it possible to qualify for the Olympics.
By the time he competed in the Olympics, Gervais had been on the Canadian Olympic team for six years and had experience competing in World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, francophone and World University Games.
Back in university, studying and concentrating was hard for Gervais. It wasn’t until later that he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Since he started taking daily prescriptions, his life has changed and for the first time it became easy, Gervais says.
“I now finally didn’t have to focus so hard to make sure I kept paying attention all the time. I finally understood that life wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was,” he says. It was a new lease on life and Gervais started doing for fun what he hated the most in the past: reading.
Gervais, who sits on the board of the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation, says he likes giving back as much as he can. He also tries to coach discus and shot put in the summer.
Together with his wife Jessica, who’s a real estate agent, Gervais is raising three children. Being bilingual in Timmins is a big advantage for him in business and all of his kids are enrolled in French schools, Gervais says.
He strives to live life to the fullest and encourages people to not be afraid of hard work.
“If you’re passionate about what you do, it’s not work,” he says. “I think hard work moulds you into something better, it permits you to learn, to enjoy and appreciate all the little things people tend to oversee. Setting a goal or objective and not stopping till you accomplish it makes it all that much more appreciated and worthwhile.”