Now that the Olympics are over, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the characters that made it to the headlines.
For my money, there isn’t any one individual more awesome than Sally Pearson of Australia when she wins a medal at the Olympics. When she won a silver medal in the 100m hurdles in Beijing in 2008, her extreme joy (bouncing up and down) and then her hilarious, stunned post-race interview (“Did you see me? I was so pumped. Did you see me?”) were classics.
Her reaction on winning the gold – screaming out and falling down flat on her back, then jumping up and around, hugging her competitors, yelling out to Aussie fans in the audience, her interview (“It just went by like so fast…. I was so nervous and scared before it…. I was like, ‘Ok, you’re winning, so just stay here… get over hurdle 8!’ “) – all speak to her class and passion as a competitor and as an individual. She had incredible focus under intense pressure and performed at her best.
The response of her fellow competitors (who seemed just as excited that she had won and equally excited for their positions) also gave the look of true sportsmanship at work. (Compare to the sullen and dejected looks in the men’s 100m hurdles.)
Usain Bolt may be the fastest in 100m and 200m, but only 3 seconds behind him is Sally Pearson jumping over those hurdles. It’s remarkable! And she doesn’t try to break the rules, either.
When you watch her during interviews outside of the Olympics, Sally is articulate, “present”, listens well and responds good-naturedly without clichés or egoism, but has precise responses focused on her goals: win the medal, don’t worry about setting the records as such, do what you can in your environment, understand your strengths and weaknesses, work hard to be the best, but don’t give away too much about your training regimen.
The Olympics give us an incredible taste of sporting glory and human achievement. But in less than two weeks, you would do well to watch one of the other great sporting events – the Paralympics. As the father of a disabled girl, I’m looking forward to seeing what these people can accomplish despite all the physical barriers that make it seem truly impossible.
Sally Pearson is a great sporting example. She’s achieved incredible feats and as a communicator displays no dissembling, no falsity – she is just pure, authentic champion.