Episode #22 – No Fear of Falling Podcast – Marissa Ponich (Fencing Athlete, Canada)

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In this episode, we dived into the world of fencing (not sword first though, as that would be dangerous) with Marissa Ponich, a member of the Canadian National Fencing Team, the current #33 rank in the world in the Sabre, and a crowdfunded athlete through the awesome donors at MAKEACHAMP.

Very few people are able to find an activity that they love. Even fewer are able to find one that they are willing to devote huge parts of their life towards. Even fewer are willing and able to juggle a full-time job and a comprehensive and demanding training schedule while competing at the highest level. But that is the daily life of Marissa, and she does it as she says to ensure that when the time comes to hang up her sword, that she will have no regrets in what she did and accomplished.

We talked about her journey into the sport, the lessons and qualities she has gained from competing within it, and about how pursuing your dreams can be hard, but putting in the hard work always pays off in the end in both results and personal satisfaction and knowledge.

You can find out more about Marissa, and contribute to her crowdfunding campaign at the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/MPonichFencer/ (Facebook)

https://www.instagram.com/mponichfencer/ (Instagram)

https://makeachamp.com/mponich/29226 (Current MAKEACHAMP Campaign)


Episode #21 – No Fear of Falling Podcast – Nicolas Florquin (Small Arms Survey)

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In this episode, we dive into the serious topic of illegal arms-trafficking and try to learn some more about those that are out there working to try and stop it.

We talk with NICOLAS FLORQUIN, a Senior Researcher at the SMALL ARMS SURVEY, an NGO based out of Geneva, Switzerland, whose aim is to be both a principal information source about the subject for the public and policy makers, but also to be an independent monitor who is out there in the field researching and documenting information that pertains to the illegal acquisition, trade, and smuggling of small arms (which can be anything from pistols to RPG’s and many in between).

We talk about the challenges of working within different countries, different cultures, and differing levels of bureaucratic control. We also talked about Nicola’s personal motivations for doing what he does, his definitions of success and failure as they pertain to his line of work, and his belief to never stop learning and always be creating new things!

Disclaimer: All views expressed by Nicolas in this episode are his personal views, and do not necessarily express or reflect the organizational policy of the Small Arms Survey.

To learn more about Nicolas and the Small Arms Survey, you visit the following links:

http://www.smallarmssurvey.org (Official Website)

https://www.facebook.com/SmallArmsSurvey (Facebook)

https://twitter.com/SmallArmsSurvey (Twitter)

https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/626809/ (LinkedIn)

https://www.youtube.com/user/SmallArmsSurvey (YouTube)


Episode #20 – No Fear of Falling Podcast – Houry Gebeshian (Artistic Gymnastics Athlete, Armenia)

Libsyn ButtoniTunesGoogle PlayIn this episode (our first one back after a bit of a hiatus), we are talking with Rio 2016 Olympian, and the first ever woman to compete for ARMENIA in artistic gymnastics, HOURY GEBESHIAN.

You may have heard her story during the Olympics, as many news outlets told her story, which is a very inspiring one. From deciding to leave the sport after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, to returning and training herself into competitive shape in a self-funded and directed manner; all while combining this dream of the Olympics with a full-time career in the Medical field.

Houry is a shining example of what one can do with determination, drive, and very strong time-management skills. Now she is continuing her path in gymnastics in both coaching, and crowdfunding to help develop the Armenian Women’s Gymnastics program.

We talked about combining education and sport, about her journey and the lessons she learned along the way, and how one has to fail in order to succeed. It was a great episode to record, and Houry is so well-spoken and fascinating to listen to.

You can learn more about Houry and what she is up to, and contribute to her Crowdfunding campaign over at GoFundMe for the Armenian Women’s Gymnastics Team here:

https://www.gofundme.com/HootingForHoury (GoFundMe Page)

https://www.facebook.com/HouryGebeshian (Facebook)

https://www.instagram.com/hourygebeshian (Instagram)

https://twitter.com/HouryGebeshian (Twitter)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTahWIWaRTTjZE6Nwam4Jqw (YouTube)

Breaking Through the Gap

It can be said that Australia has an affinity for contact sports. Sports like Rugby and Australian Rules Football (AFL) are well known for their contact and hard-nosed style, and both of which are cornerstones of Australian sporting culture. But one sport that follows in the same mould, but never really gained the same attention and affinity is American Football, also known as Gridiron.

Gridiron_Australia_logoBut Gridiron is starting to catch pace and interest; and this is due to the efforts of the women who make up the Australian National Gridiron Team, who are currently in their last stages of preparation for the IFAF World Championships, which will take place in Canada in June. One of the women who has stood out in regards to both her drive and determination, but also her love and desire for the spread of the sport is Renee Targett.

She is relatively new to the sport, finding her way there through her background in Touch Football and Rugby Union, but after being introduced to it by her partner, she was hooked, and within a very short time found herself at the National Selection Camp for Gridiron Australia. Now she finds herself as a Safety on Gridiron Australia’s defense, and alongside 41 other women from all over Australia who are stepping onto the new ground as pioneers for the sport in Australia, and especially for women.

But one of the things that come with being a pioneer, is that you are set with creating that new path for others to follow you in. When you are creating such a path, it involves a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and teamwork and ultimately figuring out ways to encourage others to join in and pay attention to what you are doing. In the case of Gridiron, fitting between sports like AFL and Rugby Union which are engrained into Australian sporting culture could be thought of as a challenge, but if anything it has spurred on Renee and her team to find new ways to teach people about the sport, and to encourage them to try it themselves.

Because in their eyes, Gridiron has so many positive qualities to teach. Things like teamwork, goal-setting, determination, and discipline are learned on the field, but off the field, Gridiron teaches you about trust, about community, about leadership, being a good teammate, and in essence creates a sort of community within it. As you are fighting alongside the same teammates every play in the goal of making it to the other team’s end zone, you create a sort of comradery that is different from other sports. Because you are all working together towards that same goal, and through each person’s role in each play, you all succeed together or you fail together. That kind of dynamic creates an atmosphere in which you have to learn to trust your teammates, believe in each other, and together rise to the challenge through encouragement and teamwork. All qualities that are present in many aspects of life, and many according to Renee, that are needed to be taught to the next generation.

One of the fascinating things about Renee is how she has become so engrossed and in love with this sport. How she can’t see herself walking away from it now, and how she feels like an ambassador for the sport in Australia and feels responsible for teaching others about it, and encouraging others, especially young women to take up the sport. Even though more exposure is needed for the sport as a whole, the spark is there now, and combined with the tried-and-tested “give it a go” mentality that Australians love, she feels that it is only a matter of time before Gridiron becomes a mainstay within Australian sporting culture, and where athletes from the other contact sports can jump across or between, and use the skills from these sports to improve Gridiron in Australia further.

And what comes next for Renee? She wants to continue developing and growing within the sport, and use the skills and qualities gained from it to further develop herself into her future profession within the education field. One of the strongest lessons that the sport has given her revolves around dealing with hardships and failure, where in her words

“Gridiron teaches you to get back up again. That when you are down, you have people that want you to succeed, and so you need to get back up and keep going.”

And with the drive and determination that she and her teammates on the Australian National Gridiron Team have shown thus far, there is no limit to how far they will go on the field, and off of it as well.


You can contribute to Renee’s GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for her trip to Canada for the World Championships, and you can also contribute by clicking the relevants links on the Gridiron Australia website here

The San Marino Speed Demon

There are few types of athletes that have less of a “Fear of Falling” (see what I did there?) than alpine skiers. They are a special breed, competing on that ragged edge between life and death, putting their minds and bodies on the line as they zip down the slopes at speeds most humans do not have the ability or courage to travel at. Alongside sliding athletes (Bobsled, Luge, Skeleton) and race car drivers, alpine skiers have this ability to understand speed, understand the risks, and then want to do it over and over again. It takes a special kind of person to absorb all of this, and an especially special person to be able to want to come back to it after sustaining a serious injury.

This is what Lorenzo Bizzocchi is working through right now. A 24-year old alpine-skiing athlete from the small nation of San Marino, he has spent this season nursing and fighting off the effects of an ACL injury. For many athletes, such an injury would mean an immediate stop to training and competition. But in his case, it has spurred him on to continue pushing himself, and if nothing, has even given him more drive and determination than he had before.

Coming from a nation where skiing is seen as a hobby and pastime, Lorenzo’s first love was Football. He competed in this sport until he was 19 years old, with skiing being his winter hobby. But the desire to see how far he could push himself as an athlete drove him towards competitive skiing, where there was no team around him, just him and the mountain. His passion for improving and getting better grew as he continued on, and his goal of getting better and better continues to this day, with 3 years and around 50 starts (including one World Championships) on the FIS circuit under his belt.

But, as many top level athletes know, such dedication and drive for your craft involves funding, which is why Lorenzo, like so many other athletes, has turned to crowdfunding sites like MAKEACHAMP to raise funds to continue his development and growth. He has coupled internet fundraising with jobs over the off-season to raise the funds to continue doing what he loves, but it also creates a difficult situation for him. In that in a period of time where an athlete would be recuperating and also preparing for the next season, he is combining work, training, and rest all at the same time. It is not exactly the most opportune combination, but Lorenzo stays motivated and driven throughout it all, determined that his time will come where skiing will be his entire life, all 12 months of the year.

And now, even with knee surgery looming, he is positive for what will come ahead. He plans to continue his career, pushing to qualify for future World Championships and Olympic Games. He wants to continue representing his country in the best way possible as an athlete and a person, thus bringing exposure and creating interest in San Marino and what it has to offer. He is studying in university for a career in Sports Science so that when his time is up, he can help train and mold the next generation of Sanmarinese athletes.

But most of all, he continues to drive towards success; where he can continue to push himself beyond what he believed was his perceived limits, to spur on improvement and personal growth. Because in his eyes, failure is when you don’t give all of yourself to achieve a goal. But we know that injury or not, surgery or not, Lorenzo Bizzocchi will keep fighting.

And we can’t wait to see what he will do next.

Writer’s Note: Lorenzo wants to thank Social Più for all of their support thus far, and to all of his contributors and followers on social media for their support and love.

Episode #19 – No Fear of Falling Podcast – Candice Mitchell (Canadian Muay Thai Fighter)

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In this episode, we head to Thailand to talk to CANDICE MITCHELL, a Muay Thai Fighter who currently is raising funds over at MAKEACHAMP to cover travel and administrative costs associated with competing at the upcoming IFMA World Championships in May; taking place in Minsk, Belarus.

Candice’s story is special in that she took an unorthodox route to get where she is now, but in the process she is doing something that many people dream of doing…in that she made the decision to leave everything she knew behind, to go after her dream and see how far she could take it.

She started training in Muay Thai at age 31, and a few years later made the decision to go professional, and move to Phuket, Thailand to train with the Phuket Top Team, one of the premier gyms in the city. She has taken this opportunity to grow stronger and better, and her results have mimicked this development, with a strong fight record, numerous titles, and the synonymous nickname of “Candi Crush” which describes her in-ring abilities quite well.

We talked about her journey to get where she is now, the numerous physical and mental benefits to practicing a martial art, the mentality of a fighter in the ring, and how failure is the ultimate opportunity to learn and grow stronger.

You can find out more about Candice, donate to her crowdfunding campaign and keep track of her news and results by checking out the links below:

https://makeachamp.com/candicekmitch (MAKEACHAMP Page)

http://candicekmitchell.com (Official Website)

https://www.facebook.com/CandiceKMitchell (Facebook Page)

https://twitter.com/CandiceKMitch (Twitter)

https://www.instagram.com/candicekmitch (Instagram)

https://www.youtube.com/CandiceKMitchell (YouTube)

Paying it Forward

There are very few people in the world who can truly say that they understand what hardship is. There are even fewer that can rise from hardship and become a success. But within this select group of people, there lies a determination and desire to help others succeed and grow. Hardship breeds humility and an understanding of what is important, but also breeds that desire to “pay it forward”. In that these people want to do what they can to give opportunities to others, just like how they were given opportunities themselves. A man that epitomizes this spirit and desire is Richmond Smith, the Founder of the Heritage Charity Foundation in Ghana.

A difficult childhood that culminated with 5 years on the street was interrupted by a Good Samaritan who saw the potential in him. This person ended up supporting him through his education, into university, where he ended up travelling to India to complete an MBA with a focus on Project Management. Just as this Good Samaritan supported him throughout an important phase of his life, he wants to do the same for youth who are or were in the same situation that he once was. This led him to the creation of the Heritage Charity Foundation (HCF), which aims to provide entrepreneurship skills for youths with the aim of reducing youth unemployment in Ghana, while transforming youth into sustainable changemakers in their communities.

Ghana is a country that is struggling to develop and utilize policies that will positively affect their youth, something that occurs within many countries around the world. In Ghana, 48% of men and women in the age group of 18-35 finds themselves unemployed (according to a report by the World Bank), and even though the ideals of entrepreneurship have spread through Africa like wildfire, the majority of the older generation still sticks to the mentality of Education -> Graduate -> Employment, which could be considered the safer and more stable option.

But Richmond and his organization are working to change this mentality, and in turn reduce the youth unemployment rate in his country through the teaching, training and development of entrepreneurship skills and sustainable practices, primarily focusing on the organic agriculture industry.  Through their programs, they want to spur on entrepreneurial growth that can spread throughout the country, and in turn help support the nation as a whole through bringing a generation of sustainable agri-business entrepreneurs through to help develop and grow their agriculture sector further.

It is a very ambitious goal, one that many people have tried to do over the years throughout the continent of Africa. Some have succeeded, and some have failed, but in Richmond’s case, no matter what the outcome is, he is determined to learn and grow from what he is doing with HCF. In his own words:

“Being a failure doesn’t mean the end of the tunnel. Failures are rather one of the best tools that one is expected to learn from to be able to start all over again, but rather using a totally different strategy. One can never be successful without being a failure because failure and efforts results into success.”

This is a sentiment that matches the kind of person that Richmond is. Someone who is out there working to “pay it forward”, create opportunities for the youth, and do his best to make an impact with the tools and knowledge he has been given. That spirit and desire he holds to make a difference I believe will resonate within each and every person that he works with within HCF; which means that there will be a generation of men and women who want to help and make a difference in their country and their world. We need more of that.



To learn more about the Heritage Charity Foundation, you can find them online on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Heritage-Charity-Foundation-1522364514750541/, or you can email them at hcfghana@hotmail.com.