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Away from the Desk - August 2016

05 Aug 2016

Away from the Desk - August 2016 Image

Going for gold?

By Susie Williamson

Winning’s not everything

I love watching sport. Footy, cricket, golf (well, the majors, anyway), rugby (union only, not league), the Premier League (damn you, Optus!) ... and, of course, the Olympics (both summer and winter).

Put a ball or a bat in my hands and I become as useless as Travis Cloke in front of  the goal posts, but give me a comfy couch and a HD television with Foxtel and I’m in my element. If armchair athletes were awarded medals for their efforts, I’d have a poolroom full of gold.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some real athletes who have reached the pinnacles of their sport. In a previous job, I worked with a bloke called Dog (not his real name – how sad would that be?). Dog was a highly-touted, first-round draft pick for THE biggest AFL club. The dude had the expectations of the world on his shoulders. And his junior footy was great (to steal a line from Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, he coulda been a contender).

But when his AFL career sadly ended before it had barely begun, he found himself having to eke out a life as an ordinary person alongside perennially ordinary people like myself. What struck me, though, was how positive he was about everything, considering how close he came to his dream.

Cut to last year when I started a new Docklands job and found myself working alongside an Olympian. YES, AN OLYMPIAN. On my second day, I was treated to lunch with my new teammates and I made sure I positioned myself opposite this Olympian at the table. I wanted to pick her brain immediately.

Back in 2010, Sarah competed for Great Britain at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in ski cross, a freestyle skiing event. She came 34th in the qualifying round and that was the end of her Olympic dream (only 32 skiers progressed to the finals). I probably watched that event in 2010. And I probably watched Sarah, saw her fail to qualify, and dismissed her from my mind when the next competitor approached the start line.

Sarah and I have been colleagues (and, I’m proud to say, firm friends) for almost a year now. We’ve used our mutual love of food to suss out all the yummy Docklands eateries, while sharing stories about where we’ve come from and how we’ve come to be where we are now.

She may not have been a winner at the Olympics, but Sarah’s a winner at life. There’s a highlights package of hers on YouTube (search for Sarah Sauvey) which makes me teary every time I watch it. This is a woman who has spent a massive chunk of her life training and falling and getting bruised and battered for the love of her sport.

Everything she worked for was lost in a split second when she “stuffed the start up” (her words). She knew from that moment that the dream was over. But at the end of her qualifying run, she looks at her time, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. This is Sarah in a nutshell.

Her Olympics experience was heartbreaking but, like the trouper she is, she’s since picked herself up and moved on. Instead of sharing ski gear with other competitors and teammates, she now shares Simpsons jokes and vanilla slices with plebs like me. And I’m a better person for having known her.

So, when you’re glued to the telly during the Rio Olympics, spare a thought for those athletes who fail to move past the qualifying rounds or, even worse, just missed out on Olympic selection in the first place.

If there’s anything that we ordinary folk can learn from the elite, it’s that mistakes – and bad luck – can and will happen. It’s how we deal with them that’s the important thing.

Oh, and the next time you’re walking to or from Southern Cross Station, keep an eye out for a chick on a scooter. It might just be an Olympian who’s passing you.

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