When I was a kid, more than just about anything in the world, I dreamed of being a downhill ski racer in the Olympics.
As the reality of my childhood settled on me, I moved the goal down a bit. I thought maybe I could be a TV camera man for ABC sports and film the race. Then as years past I took the dream down another notch. Perhaps I would be a timer or ticket taker; a volunteer at the games. Thenâ€¦ my last dream â€” wouldnâ€™t it be great to just go and watch the Olympics in person, maybe meet an athlete.
What I did was settle in front of the TV every four years, and look back on my dreams with a bit of resentment and melancholy.
Perhaps I didnâ€™t have the mental or physical aptitude to be an Olympian, but I would never know. I felt I didnâ€™t have anyone on my side in support of this dream. Financial and family support was needed to enter local races and joining a ski team; traveling with them was out of my reach. So in an accepting way, I continued to lower the bar of my dreams. I moved farther and farther away from skiing, competition, my Olympic dream, and sport in general.
Yesterday, I listened to Bart Conner interviewed. Bart is a former American gymnast who was on the gold medal team in 1984. He is now married to Nadia Comaneci, (the first person ever to score a perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics). Anyway, there is no doubt Bart excelled in the sport. He won gold! Gold medals are the end all be all in Olympic competition! Or at least I thought they were until we moved to Canada. We saw this country honoured athletes who were â€œjust happy to be there!â€ Â They actually interviewed people who came in 8th!
But, back to Bart, he said something that made me pause.
He said, and I donâ€™t have him quoted here, he said the best part of being a champion athlete is you do it by yourself. It is your hard work and stamina and dedication and sweat. And who ever is standing on the podium, you can be assured they didnâ€™t get there because their father knew someone who knew someone. He said, sport is a level playing ground and you climb to the podium on your own merits.
Maybe, maybe not.
We certainly hear the stories of homeless kids living in cars so they can train, the personal stories of Olympians are ever inspiring and every journey is personal. Training is personal. Choosing to stay a little long on the court, in the pool or the gym is personal. Focus and dedication is personal to be sure.
Tai Chi can be thought of as played on a level ground. Anyone can do it and anyone can excel through hard work and practice. But personal work does not mean we work alone. To excel we need lessons, generous teachers, coaches, and classmates. We need time to practice and money for workshops, lessons and shoes!
I admire and respect the achievements and hard work of athletes from all over the world. I know they work hard â€” and without taking any of that away, I would challenge Bart on his statement.
No one excels alone. No matter what we do, a level playing ground might be preferred, but from my personal experience, the only thing we really do on our own, is set the bar where we want it and dream. To make our goals and dreams come true â€” to get over the bar, no matter where it is set… we need help, support and inspiration.