Imagine for a minute if something you have worked for your entire life, something that you totally dedicated yourself to, came down to 1/100 th of a second. What would that be like? For some today it did.
Let me tell you about highs and lows and two very remarkable US athletes.
Julia Cluckey raced in the 2010 Olympics in Whistler. Her experience there was preceded by a blown out knee and some really difficult personal tragedy. Despite that she was in good shape to do well there, until the death at the Whistler track forced some changes to the event which worked against her strengths. But that’s not the story here. Julia came back from the Olympics, had some major surgery, and fought back to become one of the strongest women on the US team. She worked her tail off to get into position to return to the Olympics this year.
Kate Hansen has been a good women’s slider who’s results did not live up to her potential. She worked to get better. Over the past 9 months her times and finishes have steadily improved until she has been not only one of the best women on the team, but knocking on the door of the best women in the world.
Today’s races were more than just World Cup races to these two. Today’s races were for spots on the Olympic team.
After the first run, Kate was in second place. Her best showing ever in a World Cup. She was poised for her first podium. Julia was in 7th place with a good solid first run.
Let me tell you what happened to Kate first. The second run of a luge race is held in reverse order of ranking. So Kate was the second to last slider to go. She knew exactly what she needed to do to get what she was looking for, her first World Cup podium finish. I watched her run from the finish (where I was officiating). There was a great crowd cheering on the Americans and you could hear them yelling as Kate went down the track. Over the first half of the track she was in the lead. But one or two little bobbles in the second half of the track cost her her lead. Eventually she ended up in 4th place. Just off the podium. When Kate came up the outramp her arms were in the air. She was totally pumped. She earned her best finish ever and a ticket to the Olympics.
Julia? Julia finished in 6th place. She moved up a couple of spots and had her best showing of the year. But here is the thing. She needed to finish in 5th place to earn a spot on the Oympic team. She missed 5th place by 0.01 seconds. One one hundredth of a second (1/100 second!). What an amazingly small amount of time. A blink of an eye. It’s one little bobble on the track. It’s less than the time lost from one little extra steer on the sled. And yet, it was a huge amount of time. It was the difference between getting to realize her dream, the culmination of the last four years of dedication, and well, not. I don’t know Julia well. She has coached some of the club sessions, and I have talked with her a little bit. But I know how hard she has worked these past 4 years. I can only imaging how much today hurts.
That was today. A day when in less than a blink of an eye was the difference between dreams realized and dreams lost.
When you watch the luge in the Olympics this year think about these remarkable people.
Picture of the Day