What an experience this has been! Today capped my World Championships journey and although I did not end in the fashion I had hoped, I can’t walk away (or even roll away) with my head down. Needless to say, my race did not turn out the way I had hoped. What seemed like a doable task (finishing 8th place or higher) ended up being the prize that got away. There’s not too much to tell about my race. Simply put, I made mistakes and was just not fast enough to make up for them. Right on the start I buried my left blade and my first stroke was off. So was my second and probably my third. Once I finally got into rhythm, I tried to put myself back in the race, but I just don’t have the rowing fitness, skill and technique I need yet to come back from such a bad start. I gave it everything I had though, which I am proud about and kept my mental talk positive, which for me is a good step, because I can tend to be unforgiving with myself about mistakes. I stayed with it through the end, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Not only did I not get 8th, but I didn’t get 9th, either. I will have to settle with being 10th. And, now It’s up to me to decide if I want to think of it as getting a measley 10th place or being 10th in the world.
However, I can’t say that my time in Slovenia was a loss. Yes, I am disappointed I couldn’t earn a slot for the U.S. at the Paralympics. Fortunately, there is another chance in Belgrade next May and I intend to make another run at my goal. But in some ways, I am glad that things turned out the way they did. Had I come in here and cleaned up or even been in the top six, I might wonder about the state of Paralympic rowing at the World level. Considering that I have been rowing for four months, to think that I should be on par with the top women here, would belittle the sport. But I can confidently say, that rowing is alive and well at the World level and will require me to put forth every bit of effort I can muster, in order to add up. And for me, that’s what makes sports worthwhile. It’s the journey, the challenge, and doing the things that you never thought possible. That is why I’ve been so addicted and dedicated to the Ironman distance of triathlon. It’s not the eight hour training rides I love (they are actually quite boring, if you want to know the truth), but it’s knowing that you can do something that few other people can do. It’s knowing that you laid it all out there in blood, sweat and tears to accomplish amazing things. And that’s what I want for my rowing. I don’t want to go out there and say I won with no effort. If and when I stand (or sit) atop a podium, I want to know that I earned every ounce of that medal. That I worked hard and reached deep.
Last week when I got here, I was having a conversation with Natalie, who is here from England assisting the U.S. Adaptive Rowing Team. She came here, on her own dime, because she wanted to be part of our support team and coaching staff. And when I remarked on how much money she had to spend, just to volunteer her time to our cause, she told me that it was worth every penny. She said that she decided long ago that experiences, not things, were what life was about. She said that for her it wasn’t the absence of things in her life that would cause her the greatest regret, but the absence of experience.
When I look at my time at the World Championships in that way, Bled has been an absolute success. In the past ten days I have had the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue and represent my country; meet new friends from all over the globe and got to cheer for my competitor and new friend Moran, from Israel, who earned the bronze in our category; got to laugh with and spend time with great teammates and coaches; and gained more knowledge and skill in my event so that I can go home and know just what I want and need to accomplish in the coming months.
Some people will say that winning is everything or that it is the only thing. And don’t get me wrong, I LIKE to win. I WANT to win. But this time, experience is the teacher and I am the student. So I won’t leave here deflated, but rather renewed in my vision of the athlete I want to become.