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Perseverance (12/3/12)

 Katie Uhlaender
 
 Katie Uhlaender
 My knee after one of my several surgeries

Baseball is a sport of perseverance.  The odds are against you.  To hit an average of .300, or 1 out of 3 at-bats, is considered really good.  I’ve never heard of a ball player hitting .500, which is only half the time.  Every time a player walks to the batter’s box, they go with confidence, ready to overcome failure.  To know my father would go to the batter’s box, every time knowing he was ready to beat the odds, gives me the same confidence.  It’s how I believe I’ve been able to overcome so many adversities in my life. 

When I lost my father I was so bitter and angry, especially at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.  This Olympics was where I was supposed to get my first Olympic medal and have my father be there watching as he had done in every other major sporting event I’d competed in.  Instead, my father passed away from multiple myeloma (cancer of the blood) on Feb. 12, 2009, exactly one year from the Vancouver Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.  To top it off I shattered my kneecap along with my Olympic medal chances six weeks after his death.  I went on to have four surgeries to repair my knee, the last one only 16 weeks from the Olympic Games.  I made the team, but still could not walk down stairs properly.  After the races, it was back to reality.  I really did not have time to deal with my father’s death due to my immediate injury after he had passed away and then just over a month later having to attempt to make the Olympics with a freshly twice-shattered kneecap.  Reality was depressing and I was bitter.

Shortly after competing, I had an amazing chat with another athlete who had also lost their father at the young age of 24 – Carl Lewis.  He told me that it would get better.  Carl explained that I would never stop missing him, or really stop hurting, just that it would get better once I could let go, and once I did let go I would actually feel closer to my father.  I didn’t want to listen, because what he had to say was hard to hear.  Letting go was the last thing I wanted to do, but he told me to keep faith.  He let me know that one day, I would realize my father did his job.  That he had left me with all the tools I needed to succeed and continue life without him.  Mr. Lewis assured me that I was strong enough to do this, or he wouldn’t have left me.  These were some of the hardest words for me to hear at the time, but Carl was right.  As soon as I was able to let go, I have felt as though my Dad has been right with me.  Baseball is a sport of persevering through failure every day, beating the odds, and walking to the plate with confidence to hit the ball every time despite having ‘probably’ failed the time before.  Yup, I’d say he’s left me with the right tools because what made a great athlete to my father is never giving up and coming back like a champ to hit the ball.  I’ve taken these lessons with me into life to persevere through injury, loss, and now to another at-bat leading to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.