Monday, February 27, 2006

Why Sasha Cohen matters

The big news in Olympic figure skating: Sasha Cohen fell - not once, but twice - and didn't win Gold. Another missed opportunity.

The news reports asked the typical brain-dead-media questions. Was she hurt? Was she tired? Was she nervous? Did she choke?

Her polite replies? No, No, A little (it is the Olypmics after all), No.

Oh, and by the way... she won the Silver medal.

And I mean she WON the Silver. It was not handed to her. No, she fought for it and she won it. And for this reason, Sasha Cohen is a bigger winner than she would have been had she won the Gold.

Huh? Am I crazed? Not at all. Our obsession with Gold makes us all forget about a lot of things. What Sasha Cohen showed us was that she didn't forget them. She didn't forget what it is to be an athlete. She didn't forget about taking pride in her performance, about doing her best to the very end, and about not giving up. And she didn't forget that being second can be just as great an achievement as being first.

And in her not forgetting, she gives us all the chance to learn from her.

Every child athlete participating in any sport should be forced to watch Sasha Cohen's free skate program from these Winter Olympic games.

No, make that everyone should have to watch it. Every athlete. Every coach. Every parent. The lesson is far to great to be overlooked.

When she went on the ice, after a trying warm up session, you could see in her eyes the look of nervousness - of doubt. Thirty seconds into her program that doubt bore itself out as she fell on her first two jumps.

Three and a half minutes, 85%, of her program remained - with many more jumps and difficult skating. Her dreams of Gold were obviously gone. Too bad we all told ourselves. Well, there's always next time...

Look away for a moment to the majority of today's athletes - especially our young ones - and you'll see why we all think that way. A dropped ball, a missed shot, a lost game... all are cause for shut down, tantrums, poor sportsmanship and giving up. When the chance for winning and personal perfection are gone, we have taught them that it's okay to quit or to be little monsters.

Flash back to Sasha Cohen. Something was wrong. Look at her eyes now. Gone is the doubt - replaced by, of all things, a smile. She apparently missed the lecture where quitting was discussed. Not only did Sasha not shut down - she took herself to a new level - and the smile said it all.

The remaining three and a half minutes of her performance were the most beautiful and close to perfection ice skating I think I've ever seen. And she knew it too. She never wavered again. She fought with all her might - giving up was absolutely NOT an option for her.

Great athletes know that even with exceptional skills perfection really can never be obtained. You'll never be "on" all the time, and you can't do everything right all the time. But what makes a great athlete great is their ability to carry on and give 100% even when their skill has briefly let them down.

Tiger Woods is a great example of this too. When he's on, he's on. But when he's off - wow, clear the fairways! What makes him great is that he walks after that bad shot and shoots again. And again. And always with 100% effort.

I don't know that I've ever seen a skater fall twice, on their first two (and largest) jumps, and still win a Silver medal. If a medal could be given for effort, Sasha would have won the gold. And I think that's what Sasha Cohen gets.

It's time a lot of us get it too.

That's why Sasha Cohen matters.



At 11:43 PM, Blogger Bob P said...

Great observation. Her attitude, as well as a gutsy recovery, should be an inspiration to individuals in all walks of life.

Too bad Paul Hackett didn't show the same degree of pluck in his chosen venue of competition.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%. Sasha Cohen does matter because she never gave up at the Olympics when she fell 2x. I respect her for that! It's a shame that the media has a field day ripping her apart all the time. She has a lot of talent and she's very artistic. She can really capture an audience. I don't think it should be a requirement to show every single child her long program because it wasn't outstanding, but there sure isn't anything wrong with using her as an example. I agree with you here and it's a shame that the media has to show her falling and failing when they should talk more about her not giving up. Sometimes I feel that the media wants her to fail & enjoys seeing her fail. The media should be ENCOURAGING Sasha to keep up the good work and to keep trying rather than always trying to bring her down all the time. She will be remembered for her artistry and her skating ability. GO SASHA!!!


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