Friday, February 16, 2018

Falling from the Sky

It was a night (or morning in Korea) to forget. Superwoman threw up. The whirling dervish fell from the sky and landed with a thud. And the blonde bomber bombed.

Shiffrin, Chen and Jacobellis. To err was indeed human. It was the agony of defeat in triplicate.

Shiffrin hurled. A lot. And it seemed her invincibility was left there on the ground, her energy dissipated and her cape in tatters. She could only beat herself and she did.

And Nathan Chen followed up his desultory disaster in the team competition with a five alarmer in the short program. The quad no longer something he owned or even rented. All his hard work, all the hours of dedication, now seemingly turned to dust in two minutes and forty seconds. Skating in a puddle of his own tears.

2006. Torino. Could Lindsey Jacobellis exorcise the demon that seemed to curse her since that inglorious fall from grace within a whisper of the finish line twelve long, long years ago? Again, victory seemed there for the taking. Until it suddenly wasn't.

No podiums. No glory. These transcendent athletes descended from Mt. Olympus and, for today, became one of us. Mortal.

Our hearts ached as we understood the pain that these three were enduring. We knew that if we were in that position we too would likely have lost our cookies, spit the bit or slowed as the finish line seemed to recede. Their losses, their humanity ours too.

The Olympics can be cruel. Reminding us time after time that excellence is not always rewarded, greatness does not always mean you are Shaun White or Chloe Kim at day's end, that you stand far greater chance of falling, of failing.

It is what makes these Games, what makes sport, so captivating. The recognition that your best may not be enough, that perfection is almost certain to elude you, that victory is never preordained, never to be treated with anything less than the utmost reverence.

And we hope that those whose skills we so admire accept these truths as self evident, that they arise from the rubble and they be granted a tomorrow when their capes are securely fastened, they elevate to the heavens and the finish line once more becomes a cherished old friend.

Tonight we are sad. Tomorrow we get back to work. For that is what Olympic athletes do. And that is what mere mortals, as we all are, must. A retchingly painful lesson learned.

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