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Olympic Alpine Skiers Study Spanish in San Miguel

Margarita McGillvray and Rodolfo Dickson at Spanish School

By Robin Loving Rowland

How did two teenagers from Canada get on the Mexican Olympic team? And why did they choose to study Spanish in San Miguel? Those were my first two questions when I heard about Margarita McGillivray and Rodolfo Dickson, who hail from Ontario but were born in Mexico.

McGillivray was born in San Miguel before moving to Canada, so her mom looked online and found The Spanish School, also known as Liceo de la Lengua, here. “The teachers here have made it possible for me to do media interviews in Spanish with confidence,” said McGillivray. Based on her experience, Dickson came here for Spanish, as well. He’s taking two hours of lessons a day. “The teachers make it fun,” said Dickson.

Miguel Olvera, co-owner of The Spanish School, said, “Their focus helps.” When asked to describe themselves, McGillivray said she is playful, determined, loving, and self-made. Dickson listed that he is determined nice, and quiet. Another example of that determination or focus is McGillivray’s current routine, which is to walk from Los Frailes to Centro, work out at the gym for two hours, take five hours of Spanish, work out at the gym for two more hours, and then walk back to Los Frailes.

What inspires that determination and focus was my next question. “My great aunt Helen,” said McGillivray. “Although she was blind and hard of hearing, she walked five miles to school everyday in Canada and lived alone on a farm,” she continued.

Dickson was inspired by the book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior to live in the present and to focus.

That focus and determination has held both Olympians in good stead in other sports. In fact, McGillivray was named most valuable player as the only girl in an otherwise all male soccer tournament. She plays volleyball and basketball in addition to running, dancing and skiing. Dickson runs, plays soccer and works out.

Do they have any talismans to help them through difficult times? “I got a gold chain from the Madre who raised me at the orphanage in Puerta Vallarta where my parents found me when I was three,” said Dickson. Orange Gatorade is McGillivray’s favorite juju.

Do they have any spare time for things other than sports? He enjoys photography, especially landscapes and street scenes. She scrapbooks, writes music, and participates in musical theatre.

They each want to be Olympians as long as possible, but then she would like to become a physical therapist. He aspires to coach skiing and open his own ski school, perhaps in Canada or Europe.

For more information about The Spanish School, contact Olvera at


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