bleakskiWatching the accomplishments of the Olympic athletes has been breathtaking. When I think of the thousands of hours they dedicate to practice, nutrition, conditioning, rehabilitation, competition, travel and more practice, I am in awe. They make it look easy because they are so good, but it’s a long and often lonely path to take. They pay a price to get there and to stay there.

I met a young woman a few years ago – Crystal. A downhill racer. Beautiful in face and spirit. The energy just radiated from her in waves. An incredible role model. We got to talking and she mentioned how much she had given up in her life – going to university, hanging out with friends, establishing a serious long-term relationship, spontaneity, visiting a country to enjoy it rather than racing from the airport to a sports venue to a hotel room and back again.

Crystal is of Asian heritage. Her first-generation Canadian parents remain traditional. Own your own business. Work long and hard. For her, that created additional challenges because they did not understand that her quest to win was her interpretation of the working hard ethic. They were puzzled why she chose the ski hills instead of school. When was she going to settle down? Last year, after a series of injuries and another glorious summer spent in a rehab camp in the Kawarthas and skiing into the lake learning new tricks, she decided to pack it in. And she’s happy about that because now she’s made a choice to follow another path to get to a new goal. Get back on the young-woman-life track. Return to university and start a new career. Yeah, Crystal!

Crystal never lost her joy. I admire her courage so much. I’ve learned that winners choose what they want to be good at, that they never quit, and that they decide what constitutes victory, no matter what they do.