Spotlight on Goldman Sachs Olympians: Mark Bellofiore

As nations around the world unite to compete for the top spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics, we are celebrating Olympic athletes across Goldman Sachs in a new Q&A series. Seven employees will share their journeys, memories and stories from the games and how the experience has shaped their perspectives today. Keep visiting the careers blog for new profiles over the next few weeks.

Mark Bellofiore works in the firm’s Investment Banking Division in Sydney. He competed for Australia in Canoe / Kayak Slalom at the Olympics in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). Below, Mark highlights how he got involved in canoeing, the dynamics of competing on a team and balancing work and sport.

Q: How did you get involved in Canoe / Kayak Slalom?
Mark: I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and was lucky enough to attend a school that had a big focus on canoe slalom. I started when I was 13 years old and really became obsessed with it from the outset and just kept progressing from there. When I was 16, I became a member of the Victorian Institute of Sport and then a couple of years later the Australian Institute of Sport. The Australian Institute of Sport for Canoe / Kayak Slalom is based in Penrith near Sydney, so when I was 18 years old I moved to Sydney to focus on the sport with the aim of qualifying for the Olympics.

Q: Describe the training and commitment that Olympic-level performance requires. What type of preparation and sacrifice did your training demand?
Mark: Training would consist of eight to ten approximately 1.5 hour sessions on the water (a combination of whitewater and flatwater training), two to four sessions in the gym and a run or some form of cross training each week. Most days I’d wake at 6:00 a.m., train until about 8.30 a.m., travel about one hour to work, work until mid-afternoon, train again in the late afternoon and then attend University or post-graduate study in the evening. Given the whitewater nature of the sport, there were only limited hours each week that could be spent on the whitewater without getting injured. This was positive in that made it possible to further my career and education while competing.

Outside of training, we would spend about two to three months a year overseas training and racing World Cups and World Championships, predominately in Europe. In the 12-month lead up to both the Athens and Beijing Olympics, we would travel to the courses where the races were held about six times throughout the year. Overall, it was a lot of time spent training and travelling for what ends up being a 100 second (and very volatile) race every four years!

Q: Please share any setbacks or challenges you experienced on your path to the Olympics. How did these impact you and how did you manage them? 
Mark: The main challenge was balancing sport, work and study. Canoe Slalom isn’t a high profile sport in Australia, so most people competing here need to work at the same time in order to support themselves. I made sure I was always organized, planned in advance and was lucky enough to have an understanding employer who also sponsored me.

Q: What parallels can you draw between outstanding performance at your sport and at Goldman Sachs, in your current job?
Mark: What I learned most from sport was the positive correlation between the effort I put in and performance. From early on, when I was young, I was very focused on training harder than others. When I saw this translate into results, it was a great feeling that kept me motivated throughout my career. I think that determination and competitive spirit helped me when I arrived at Goldman Sachs.

Q: Share a little bit about the experience of being part of a sports team that’s performing at the highest levels of excellence. What were the team dynamics like? What similarities and differences do you see among Goldman Sachs teams?
Mark: My immediate sports team consisted of just two of us, so that was certainly intense. I learned the importance of communication, negotiating, making sacrifices for the team and working together toward a common goal. Our broader Australian team that competed in World Championships and World Cups consisted of around twelve people, so there were always very different personalities and egos on the team. It was important to be respectful of each other, support each other, be patient and work together smoothly to ensure the team as a whole performed at its peak. I don’t see this as very different to Goldman Sachs.

Q: What is your favorite memory from participating in the Olympics?
Mark: At my first Olympics in Athens, I was 21 years old, so pretty young and excitable. The level of energy walking out into the Opening Ceremony was absolutely incredible. I remember our Australian flagbearer was around 20 meters in front of me while I was marching out. I had an Australian flag in my hand and got so caught up in the moment that I ran up along the side of the team marching waving the flag at the crowd. Before I knew it I was 20 meters in front of the flag bearer and had to sheepishly walk back and get into line.

Read more stories from Goldman Sachs Olympians