#029 - AN OPEN LETTER TO MELISSA HOLLINGSWORTH
A bit of background, for those who don't recognize the name or context...
It's the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Still. I've watched nothing else on TV for the last week and a half, and I love it. I've learned names I didn't know before - and may not remember next month; heard inspiring stories that I'm sure are just the tip of the iceburg; I've even seen sports that I didn't even know existed. I've heard the arguments, both pro and con, for the "Own the Podium" sports program - the Canadian government's amateur sports program that supports Olympic athletes, and the questions over the results.
A few days ago, I watched the Women's Skeleton. This is a sport where you whip down a steep and winding ice track on what looks like a mechanics trolley, but on skis rather than rollers, and you're facing down and forwards, so you can watch your own death coming towards you at 150 kilometres per hour.
One of Canada's hopefulls was a young woman named Melissa Hollingsworth. After a few really good runs, and one not-quite-so-good, Melissa didn't win a gold medal, as all those cheering for her had wanted. She was in second place after her first three runs. She finished in sixth after the fourth and final.
Within a few minutes of her last race, this woman was in front of the camera, obviously distraught at her own performance. As we all watched, Melissa talked about how she had let her entire country down. It was painful to see. Me, the not-terribly-cuddly person, wanted to hug her and say that it was ok. I also wanted to shake her hard and tell her how stupid her sentiment was.
Yeah, we want our athletes to win medals. Yeah, we support a lot of them with some small amount of tax money. But you don't owe us anything. Least of all, an apology for doing your absolute best and falling short of being the world's best - that day.
And if that isn't enough to buck you up, keep this in mind as well. Most of your detractors, if there are any, are sitting on their well rounded asses, and wouldn't know athletic ability if it jumped up and bit them. You are a role model, and a good one, gold or no.
Being humble and hard on yourself is an endearing Canadian quality, but know this...
And you know what? A year from now, I'll remember seeing you on TV. I might even remember your name. That probably wouldn't be true if you had won.
24 February 2010