Lee Parkhill: from sailing to Smith

Posted on January 24, 2018

Excitement is building for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, just weeks away. To celebrate the Games, we’re featuring athletes attending Smith School of Business as part of our partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee. Up this week is Lee Parkhill, who competed for Canada in sailing.

Kingston, ON – On the day in November 2016 that Smith and the Canadian Olympic Committee announced their partnership, Lee Parkhill called his alma mater, the University of Guelph, to get his transcripts. He wanted to apply to Smith right away.

“The timing was perfect,” he recalls. Three months earlier, Lee had sailed at the Rio Olympics. Afterward, at 27, he retired and looked forward to whatever came next. “One thing I knew, I wanted to go back to school.”

When Lee was nine months old, his parents bought a sailboat. He practically grew up on the water around his hometown of Oakville, ON, sailing most weekdays as a teen and racing on weekends.

Lee, who is pursuing an AMBA degree, says that athletes have many of the skills businesses desire: teamwork, a willingness to be coached and an ability to adapt quickly. Oh, and resiliency. Lee knows quite something about that.

Competing in the Olympic trials Laser event in 2011, he became a late favourite to make Team Canada. Then, a false start disqualified him in a key race — all but ending his hope of going to the London Olympics.

Yet Lee was undeterred. Four years later, he won bronze at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, before heading to Rio. “Getting a medal on home soil, putting that past disappointment behind me,” he says, “that was a high point for sure.”