The first time I walked through the doors of the Greensboro Coliseum, I limped. A severed Achilles tendon four months prior still had me walking in this swooping, drunken kind of way. I would be off the ice for two more months, so for the first time in my life, I went just as a spectator to the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.I watched Madison Chock from Redondo Beach win the bronze medal.
Fast-forward four years to January 2015, and the setting remains the same. In a post-Olympic year, the U.S. championships return again to the Greensboro Coliseum, except this year I’m not watching the Californian beauty from the stands — I’m her partner, and we are capturing our first U.S. title.
What transpired during those four years is, to me, the essence of what the Olympic spirit is about — to face adversity, to struggle without giving up, to adapt, to persevere and, eventually, if progress is to ensue, to repeat the whole process.
Face adversity. Struggle. Adapt. Persevere. Repeat.
At first, there was the adversity of getting healthy. A skate blade severed my Achilles in half. It would take months of physical struggle in my rehabilitation to get healthy again. Then the adaptation of my body had to occur; specifically, my tendon needed time to heal. Eventually, there was the perseverance — the moment I got back on the ice.
And then a new cycle started.
First, the adversity of finding a new partner — Madi and I found each other 10 months after my surgery. Then came the struggle of learning to skate with someone new. We had many differences at first that caused us to struggle. In 2012, we finished off the podium, in fifth place at the U.S. championships. We always kept a strong work ethic and, over time, we adapted to each other. We persevered to eventually win the U.S. title.
This “Olympic spirit cycle” — or whatever you want to call it — is challenging and enduring, but it is also great. This cycle provides the spectrum from which we gauge all of our feelings — it makes life worth living. How can you truly appreciate the thrill of victory, without experiencing the agony of defeat? How can you persevere to new heights, without going through the necessary struggle and adaptation?
You can’t. That is the point.Last week in Greensboro was, for me, an arrival at a full-circle destination — my last bit of perseverance on a journey that began with a gruesome injury and ends with a national championship. Except that it isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of a new “Olympic spirit cycle.”
“And so it goes,” to quote Vonnegut.
These cycles are always going to be there. Every person, athlete or not, is in the midst of their own cycle. It goes beyond sport — it is part of the human condition. Know that these cycles are always going to be there. Embrace them with the motto,
“Adversity is OK. Struggle is good. Adaptation is better. Perseverance is best.”
If you’re in the middle of your own struggle, be steadfast in your commitment to adapt and your belief that you will persevere. It’s really all about learning to be comfortable with change.
I didn’t expect my first blog entry to read like a self-help novel, but alas, here we are. Madi and I will be trading off blogging duties for the next few weeks. This blog will be a space for us to share our experiences as we travel the world competing for the United States. Last week we were in Greensboro, where we won our first national title. Next week we will be traveling to Seoul, South Korea, for the Four Continents Championships. Keep up with us on Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks for reading.