Defeat Reveals an Athlete’s True Character

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A big loss can tell you more about a person’s character than a big win. Defeat tends to strip away our layers of camouflage to reveal the person’s true nature.

I witnessed just such a situation this weekend at the Ontario high school track and field championships (OFSAA). It’s a huge, prestigious, high-pressure event, involving over 2200 athletes plus a stadium-full of parents, spectators and university scouts. The athletes call it “The Show.”

One of my runners had qualified for the sprint hurdle event. She’s a 15-year-old dynamo, with freckles, a huge smile, a quit wit and so much energy that she often bounces up and down when she is talking to you.

She had beaten the odds just to qualify. Although she had been an OFSAA and Canadian Legion finalist last year, she had injured her hip early in the Spring and had barely been able to practice. But she persevered, attended therapy sessions, stopped her other sports (of which there are about five), and got herself healthy enough to advance through the qualifying meets.

In the morning heats at OFSAA, she had run well, qualifying third behind an athlete who had broken the meet record.

The afternoon final was a pressure cooker, run in tropical heat before a capacity crowd. My runner, in lane three, had a decent start and was still in contention when the runner next to her hit the fourth hurdle then took two stumbling steps and fell sideways into my athlete’s lane, flying at my girl’s ankles like a halfback making a cut-block.

My runner was forced to jump sideways to avoid contact, but it put her out of rhythm and slowed her to a near-stop. The race was long over by the time she crossed the finish line, tears streaming down her face.

She was sobbing as she walked off the track, and after a teary hug with Dad and a thrown track spike, stomped off to cool down. With all the adversity she had overcome and sacrifices she had made to get to this race, she was incredibly frustrated, disappointed and angry.

A half hour later, she came back and told me that she’d probably have another cry later by herself, but she’d be OK. She was tough. And it was better that this had happened in the final than in the heat.

Then she said – with a smile – that it was Karma that this had happened. “How so?” I asked.

“Well, when she hit the hurdle, I thought “Good!” So the next thing you know, she’s in my lane. That’s Karma. You shouldn’t think bad thoughts about the other girls when you race.”

Like I said…character!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]track,hurdles,hurdling,physical education,character[/tags]

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