Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Laura-Ann Chong is from Vancouver, BC. Artistic Women’s Gymnastics. 2004 Olympic Team Alternate. Earned a NCAA Scholarship at Division 1 Oregon State University. Became a 2x All-American, Regional Champion and PAC-10 Campion in women’s gymnastics.
Cirque du Soleil acrobat with Amaluna, touring and performing for 7 years around Europe, North America and South America.
I love to travel – have been to 38 countries!
I’m a huge foodie – I love a good food truck, Michelin-star chef selections or local family-owned restaurants.
My family is everything.
I am passionate about championing athlete rights, facilitating connections and networking, and advocating for mental health support and services.
How has sport provided you with new or different opportunities you would not have expected?
Well, I never thought I’d run away to join the circus! Although Cirque du Soleil has always been mentioned as something cool for acrobats, I never really saw the connection between sport and circus until I was in the cirque world. I soon found out that gymnasts in particular are very desirable talents to the circus world due to their understanding of their body, spatial awareness and of course, the balance between strength and flexibility.
Outside of athletic endeavors, my time in Cirque du Soleil provided opportunities for me to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures and exposed me to the communications world and the profession of public relations. I have always loved networking and hearing about people’s stories and their purposes, but I never saw how this could turn into a career. I was able to shadow and intern with Cirque du Soleil publicists from around the world in multiple countries who had to cross message with people from all backgrounds and this is what excited me. Studying Exercise and Sport Sciences did not make me think I would fall in love with a public relations career, but I am so excited for this new season of my evolving career.
What lessons did you learn in sport that can be applied to your daily leadership?
Sport will always teach you how to prioritize in your life. As a gymnast, I was often reminded to “stay in the moment.” This pertained to my routines and skills I was performing, but I use it still every day to remind myself to be present and be grateful for what I have and what I am able to do. It’s very easy to get sucked into so many facets of negativity or pulled in a multitude of directions and therefore losing yourself. I think staying in the moment has always reminded myself to re-center and prioritize what I need to focus on at that time and it also helps motivate me as I don’t feel as overwhelmed with all of the things going on, on a daily basis.
I’ve also learned that communication and time management can never be overlooked. Since I was an elite gymnast at the age of 11 onwards, I always had to balance going to school, training 32 hours/week, 6 days/week and still trying to be a child, I learned how to time manage at an early age and communicate when I needed help juggling tasks.
What advice do you have for parents, coaches or sport administrators to improve inclusion in sport?
Exposure and communication! Encouraging exposure to diverse people, cultures, languages, and even multi-sported athletes and allowing safe spaces for these conversations to flourish. An athlete should always feel free to ask questions to topics that may not be in mainstream media.
I believe that leadership and mentorship are so important for any athlete. This can come from someone directly involved in the athlete’s sport career (parent, coach, teacher, teammates) or sometimes it’s even better to look outside of that circle as they are able to contribute from beyond the looking glass and can offer a fresh perspective. This allows breathing room. It plays on the “take a step back” motto as sometimes you need to take a moment to offer distance to really appreciate the efforts of everyone involved.