Behind the Podium 3/10

March 2010

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The Canada versus USA Olympic hockey game, and the importance of its outcome, will be a topic of discussion for years to come. There are so many Olympic stories to tell. But I must choose just one.

Meeting the people behind the medals was what excited me most through the 2010 Winter Olympics. If I missed the event, I just wanted to see their faces when they won – hear their first words, their interviews, the glimpses into their lives and their personal stories of inspiration. That is what stood out for me – the people and the stories behind the podium.

Not only were the champions so inspiring by their performances, they were all so beautifully human, so nice. Here are but a few examples.

Alexandre Bilodeau (gold medal, freestyle moguls) gives credit to his brother Frederic for being his hero, his inspiration, for teaching him about determination. Frederic has cerebral palsy.
Mike Robertson’s (silver medal, snowboard cross) first words to the media were, “I love my mom and dad,” which was particularly touching for me because I know his mom and dad. (I love them too!)
Joannie Rochette (bronze medal, figure skating) chose to skate only two days after the sudden death of her mother, and turned in a medal performance. Joannie indicated frequently that she was extremely grateful for all the support she received. Did you notice how she got stronger every day?

Yes, I was struck by Joannie’s amazing performance in face of adversity. She was truly inspiring. So too are the fans. What really struck me was the compassion of Canadians and fans the world over, who seemed to carry, or inspire, Joannie Rochette the night of her short program. Here was a demonstration of the power of loving intention and evidence, to me, that humans are inherently good. This just might be worth the six billion dollar price tag.

Four things I learned from the athletes and what I found behind the podium:
 
1. Life is made up of split seconds and small moments. And a split second can make a big difference. Pay most attention to the moment you’re in and the moments that move you forward. Learn from the ones that don’t. No one gets better through criticism or dwelling in the past. What bright moment can you call upon to move you forward? What hurtful moment can you forgive?

2. Adversity creates champions. Expecting and preparing for adversity makes difficult tasks easier and celebrations sweeter. Medal winners often spoke of the importance of preparation and focusing on the process. Come game time all they had to do was go through the well-rehearsed motions and enjoy the results. Where might you shift your focus to the process instead of pushing hard for results?

3. Support builds confidence. There isn’t an Olympian who made it on his or her own. They all have teams of loved ones and professionals to lean on, who guide and inspire. Who’s on your team? Where do you need to ask for support?

4. Success comes in all colors, shapes and sizes. Self-acceptance and self-respect is pivotal. “I just believed in myself,” was something I heard more than once. What aspect of you needs your recognition? If you’re a speed skater, the size of your thighs could be your strength in disguise.

Regardless of what you are working towards – an Olympic medal or a healthy, well balanced life – being human means living with wins and losses, strengths and weaknesses, praise and criticism, as well as good moments and bad. Embrace it all, because you’re human and inherently good.

Coach Debbie Ford says it best. “We are meant to hold the entire world within us; part of the task of being fully human is to find love and compassion for every aspect of ourselves.”