Monday, February 15, 2010

Playing for the Pure Sport, and nothing Else...

Last night during the Men's Mogul Finals, those who watched saw Dale Begg-Smith get second to Alex Bilodeau, giving Canada it's first gold on home soil. While I know little to nothing about mogul skiing, I did experience a huge take-away while watching a little biographical segment on Begg-Smith that NBC had inserted in between the finalists' races. This seemingly free-spirited guy who comes across as a huge jerk to the media, because of his unusually quiet, mysterious demeanor and tendency to plan "flights" in the middle of press conferences, immediately interested me.

Essentially, Dale used to ski for Canada. In between skiing, he happened to found some spyware company, and his Canadian coaches scolded him for spending too much time on the seemingly fledgling business and too little on his sport. Dale, a defiant teenager, decided to quit Canada at the age of 16 and to take advantage of his dual citizenship in Australia to ski for their team. After three years of hard work, he brought his business to be worth millions and also proved to be successful under the Australian training regime. Fast forward nine years and he has won several medals, including the Gold at the Winter Olympics in 2006. This year, according to NBC's blurb, he is the Olympics biggest man of mystery because he refuses to talk to any media really besides Australia media.

NBC asserted that he skis for the pure joy of the sport...not for the money, not for the attention, and not for the groupies who may follow him. Instead, Dale skis for himself (and perhaps also for a higher being, but no one will ever know that considering he doesn't talk to the media). As opposed to many other athletes who really put themselves in the camera's front path in attempts to get sponsors or other endorsement deals, it seems as Dale sees the media as a useless hurdle that keeps throwing itself into his path in an effort to slow him down. Instead, Dale tosses those hurdles aside by merely ignoring them, and focusing purely on the task at hand - competing to his fullest potential utilizing all of the skills, techniques and other tactics that he has acquired and cultivated for over three (or more!) years of dedication, hard work, and determination in preparation for the Olympics.

What I like most about Dale is that he puts himself into a bubble that blocks out all potential deterrents to his path of success. By doing so, his mind is devoid of any outside distractions and he is immersed into a world of quiet calm. What a blissful, mentally powerful way to start a competition.

I bring up Dale because in many ways, you can parallel such a calm confidence to many runners. If someone wins a race, their mom might ask them afterwards: "Did you hear me cheering for you at mile five? I was the only one around...". Undoubtedly, that person did not hear their own mother cheering for them because they had immersed themselves into a different reality, one that focuses solely on the breathing and the rhythmic pit-pat of their feet hitting the pavement.

I also thought of Garrett when NBC was providing an explanation for Dale's mysterious ways. When seeing Garrett's face when he gets onto the mound, it is obvious that his mind is transcending into a world completely quiet, void of the clutter that fills the external world. His mind is focused in such a way that it's almost as though his mind is in a different place than his body, as though in a dream state, where the only reality that matters is the one starring the catcher, the batter, and the pitcher (and maybe some of the players trying to steal bases).


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