Monday, February 22, 2010

Faster, Higher, Stronger

Pages written since lost post: 57

Okay, I confess: I’m a complete Winter Olympics junkie. I love downhill, ski-jump, snow boarding, bobsled, luge, skeleton, short track, 1000 meter, cross country, and oh yes, figure skating– men’s women’s, pairs, ice dance. Once every four years, I even love hockey. For two weeks in February, I am glued to the television set for six to eight hours a day, cheering– not for a nation or an individual– but for the best. Because when records are broken, when personal bests are surpassed, when the impossible becomes history, gateways open up for all of us to surge through.

This is what I’ve learned from the Olympics this year:

You don’t make the podium by accident.

Every one of these kids had a dream, and they believed in it enough to be at the rink at four o’clock in the morning to practice, every morning, without fail, for fifteen years, rain, snow, sleet, bad mood, heavy date, flu, birthday, Christmas , New Year’s, whatever ; to move across country to study under the best coach; to leave their families, their friends and their lives behind to perfect their sport; sometimes they even give up their citizenship– for life!– for a chance to pursue excellence. They don’t do this part time. They don’t do this half way. Greatness is not something you achieve when you get around to it. Greatness is a lifetime commitment.

When they fall down, they get up again.

Bode Miller, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say one more thing. Shaun White, having already locked down the gold, did not have to do the most dangerous trick of his career, the 1260 Double McTwist– which just happened to result in a spectacular crash at the X Games. He did it because when you’re the best, you can’t not do your best.

It’s always harder than you think it will be.

No one likes to hear this. No one likes to even think about it. But the truth is, sometimes your best isn’t good enough. Sometimes you work for years, train twelve hours a day, spend thousands on coaches, perfect your craft, do the best you can possibly do... and still fail. You fall on the throw-quad, crash a gate on the downhill, take a spectacular spill on the Super-G, and this in spite of everything you could do. You think it’s over. And sometimes, truth be told, it is. But sometimes you get up, start all over again, and make a spectacular comeback. Because champions know it’s always harder than you think it’s going to be. And 100% is rarely good enough.

No one who came to Olympic games said, “I came here to lose.” or “I came to play it safe.” No one got there by giving the effort what they had to spare. They came for the gold, and they gave it everything they had.

How about you?

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