“Type-A Wackletes”

Having told my athletically inspirational friend (CW-who by the way is on his way to Vermont for the national mountain biking championships!) about my dream yesterday, I was introduced by him to the amazing story of Kathryn Bertine. ESPN took this 31-year-old, a great but not-yet-world-champion-level athlete, and sponsored a project to see just how hard it really is for someone who is good but not great to qualify for the Olympics. She was trained as a figure skater and triathlete, and competed in the coveted Hawaii Ironman competition. She tried out for the events of the pentathalon (swimming, running, horseback riding, fencing, and pistol shooting) but was 27 seconds too slow in the running competition. And, as Kathryn points out, there’s no second chances in the Olympics, nor even in the tryouts. Undaunted, she went on to try out for the women’s handball team. She failed at that too (who even plays handball, anyway?), and decided that since she was already an accomplished biker through her triathalon training, she would train for the Olympic cycling.

Hers is a fascinating, and hilarious, story (she calls herself, and others like her, “type-A wackletes”. I can only hope to be considered part of that definition someday). It gives an amazing perspective into the world of world-class athletes, people whom the rest of us hold up almost as gods, people whom we could never be like even if we tried. She puts a human face on them, showing that they too have struggles and limits. She made the untouchable touchable. Although ultimately she fails in making it to Beijing this year, the story should inspire the rest of us to strive for greatness ourselves rather than writing greatness off as something that only the elite do. Because at least then we can say we’ve tried.

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One Response

  1. It is a strange thing some of us do, when we know there a tiny chance that we could win a competition, or even place in the top 40%, and yet we still compete. Marathon runners are the archeotypical “no chance of winning but will compete anyway”. Just talk to anyone who has run a marathon. They rarely say I place 10th or 25th or 100th in the Marine Corp marathon… they will say, “Yes, I ran the Marine Corp” or “Yes, I finished the marathon.” It is because to even finish a marathon you have to have trained. And to train requires discipline. And this implies hard work. Respectable hard work. So that is the prize for those who compete with no chance of winning… respect. Respect for oneself mostly, but a side benefit is the respect of others who know you are no tellytubby.

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