Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monthly Goodness: Life is Not Always Fair

In my biography on my website, I wrote that the number one thing I learned from racing was: life is not always fair, but fairness does not have to control your ability to be happy or your ability to succeed.

I think that there is no better person that has proved this point than Whitewater Slalom Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Giddens. Rebecca is one of my dearest and closest friends.

In 1999 Rebecca and I were both racing for the U.S. National Team at the World Championships in Seu d'Urgell, Spain. In the team competition we shocked everyone when together with our other teammate, Mary Marshall Seaver we won the Silver Medal.  It was a great moment for the three of us as we were the total underdogs and came out of nowhere. This moment, however, was quickly overshadowed by a horrible and unfair incident.

A day later we all raced in the individual category for the much coveted World Championship Title. In yet another underdog performance, Rebecca came out of nowhere and posted the second fastest time earning herself a World Championship Silver Medal. I will never forget looking up at that scoreboard and seeing Rebecca’s name only one down from the top. I sat down and put my head in my hands. I couldn’t move. I was so impressed, overwhelmed, and a wee bit jealous that Rebecca had accomplished something we had all dreamed of achieving since we were little. This joy was unfortunately short lived. Right before the awards ceremony, Rebecca was stripped of her silver medal by a judging call of the most unfair nature.

I will not get into why the judges ruled to remove Rebecca’s silver medal – the politics involved in this judging call make my fingers burn as I write, but I will say this: there had never been a judging call like this one before, and because the judging call was so unfair rules were immediately implemented to ensure there would never be a judging call like this again. Let me repeat, there was nothing right or fair or decent about the judging call to remove Rebecca’s medal.

Can you imagine having dreamed of this kind of success your whole life, having worked so incredibly hard, and then having put it all together in the race of your life and wining the silver medal for it only to be taken away hours later by a political call of spite, indecency, and illegality?

Rebecca could have let this moment ruin her – burn her up inside and make her want to turn her back on whitewater slalom forever. I’m sure she thought about it. But, instead she put her head down and started training for the next World Championships, which wouldn’t be till three years later.

In 2002 we found ourselves at the World Championships in Bourg Saint Maurice, France. Rebecca was no longer an underdog. She was now highly favored to take home the gold. The riverbank was loaded with spectators, the huge jumbotron TV was focused on Rebecca as she sat in the start gate. She left the start gate in a blaze and continued to fly down the huge whitewater course. When she crossed the finished line no judge, no coach, no competitor, or fan would ever doubt her result – she was clearly the best in the world, and with the fastest time, she now sat on the very top of the leader board. Three hours later she was crowned the 2002 World Champion becoming the first U.S. female Whitewater Slalom World Champion since 1979.

I want to drill home my point to this posting – unfair things happen to all of us every day. Life, like sport, is not fair. But my friends we have a choice: we can let anger consume us and blame our unfairness for why we never achieved our dreams, OR we can move on from these unfair acts and chase our dreams again. The choice is ours.

This will not be the last time I post about Rebecca. She’s had many inspirational achievements that I hope to bring to life in this blog, but the moment when her 1999 World Championship silver medal was taken away from her, was in my opinion, one of her greatest victories because she moved on and didn’t let it affect her desire and ability to continue to achieve greatness.

I would like to end this post with a quote given to me by one of my most favorite people in the world, Harriott Lumpkin Parker who just last year was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer at 34 years of age – life at its most unfairness. And yet when I saw her in the thick of her cancer treatment, she was smiling every minute of the day.
“Be happy, my friend for you do have a choice. You can sit and complain or stand and rejoice. You can waste your life with judgment and blame, or learn to forgive and understand we’re the same. For all of us feel fear and everyone knows pain, product of experience, no one’s to blame. So let go of your past your hurts and fears. Cherish each moment and love life while you are here.” unknown
 It is so hard to move on when life is unfair. It is so easy to sit and cry and give up. But do me a favor, after you have had a good cry, stand up and move on and continue to chase all the dreams in your heart. Easier said than done, I know, but 100% worth doing.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunday Goodness: Invitation

Every single line of this poem is packed full of goodness – enjoy a true classic.

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Shel Silverstein, Where the Side Walk Ends
So why do I like this poem so much? Because its inviting you to dream, to believe in even magic beans.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Goodness: Tough Times

Every Sunday I will post a small passage that will hopefully give you something to think about or just make you pause and smile for a moment. Read the passage as a family at dinnertime, bedtime, or any loll in the day – you might be surprised by the thought provoking conversations that start after reading these inspiring nuggets.

“Some of my fondest memories in sport were a result of failure, injuries, set backs, or mistakes. I learned far more about myself and gained more character in those difficult times than I ever did when success came easily.” Peter Vidmar, Olympic Gold Medalist

So if you have a tough week ahead of you take heart in what Mr. Vidmar wrote. This tough week could help define who you are and make you understand and appreciate your victories that will surely follow.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Power of Self-Belief

I truly believe human’s greatest super power is the ability to believe in oneself. I’ll prove my point by using one of my favorite moments in sport history.

It was the 1980 Winter Olympics and it was predicted by everyone that the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team would be crushed – slaughtered – destroyed by the Russian Hockey Super Power. In fact, just a few weeks before the Olympics the US Men’s Hockey Team played the Russians and lost 10-3! 

At the Olympics, in a stadium packed full of thousands of people, Herb Brooks-Head Coach said this to his U.S. players moments before they took the ice to play against the superior Russian Team:

“If we play ‘em 10 times, they might win nine. But NOT this game. Tonight we are the greatest team in the world. This is your time! Now go out there and take it!” Herb Brooks Foundation

Against all odds and all critics the US Team beat the Russians and went on to win the Olympic Gold Medal. The event was perfectly dubbed, a miracle on ice because it was a miracle! The US team was not as skilled, not as talented, and not as successful as the Russians. So you have to ask, how was it possible?

Simple, they believed – they tapped into the greatest super power humans have: self-belief. Just for one night, these 20 extraordinary U.S. hockey players believed they were capable of beating the Russians – they believed in something no one else thought was possible.

So for the month of January 2012 I leave this blog post for you to think about.

There are a lot of impossible feats we as a global society, a nation, a city, a town, an individual must achieve, but unless we believe we are capable of extraordinary events there is no hope for success – for miracles. 

I know that even when we believe sometimes we still come up short of our goals, our dreams.  But, I promise you this – you will have a far greater chance of success and happiness if you do believe in yourself. There is no greater misery than self-doubt.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle