The last few days have been what Nick has been calling “the final countdown”. Now that his semifinal is only three days away, he’s been transitioning into a different sort of mindset. In the past, Nick has shown that he’s the kind of athlete who thrives in big events. For some reason or another, his mind and body have seemed to just click when it really counts. In 2008, he had a lot of solid races in his lead up to Beijing, but none were really great. That year, he finished most of his races feeling like he had underperformed. Sometimes it was due to illness, sometimes minor injuries, and sometimes imperfect racing strategies. But when the Olympic final rolled around, he was able to run that truly great race that he had in him all along.
True, maybe it’s just luck. It’s ignorant to pretend there isn’t an element of the unknowable when it comes to racing. In one unlucky moment—a fall, a false start, a step—a race can change and dreams can end. Sometimes it’s not the athlete’s fault; sometimes it’s just an unfortunate situation.
But I don’t believe Nick’s just been lucky. I think he’s just the kind of person that makes someone like me just shake my head in disbelief (and feel just a little bit of jealousy). Nerves and pressure make me lose my confidence. Even if I prepare for a public speech for weeks, I still stumble my way through it. Nick does absolutely no preparation and relies on his stage nerves to carry him through a speech, which then of course, turns out to be a hit. Sometimes when I listen to him speak, I hear vocabulary come out of his mouth that I’ve never heard before!
That’s how it is when he races. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, he had strep throat for two weeks prior to the race. But he knew people expected him to win. There were 90,000 people in the stadium watching. The pressure was on. And he came through with a big win.
Some athletes prepare for a big race by doing everything they can to calm their nerves. They avoid thinking about the race. But in Nick’s case, focusing on the race is exactly what he needs to get him ready for it. Those nerves that would destroy my confidence seem to be a magical potion for him. In fact, some of Nick’s worst races have been when he’s been too relaxed and too nonchalant about a race. Using these last few days as a “final countdown” is truly the best preparation he can do for Delhi.
Sure, the past has shown that Nick’s naturally good under pressure, but he’s careful not to take credit for that gift. We truly believe that every talent and ability we can ever posses comes from God. Lately, Nick and I have been talking about how we should pray for this race. We both agree that it seems too narrow in scope to pray simply for gold. What we really want is for Nick to give his absolute best. Now, I can’t hide that I think Nick’s best will win the race. To me, an admittedly biased wife, that’s not even debatable. But out of humility, we have to acknowledge the possibility that the “best” race for Nick may not mean gold. It may not even mean finishing in the top ten. Maybe true victory will not be able to be measured by a clock. Out of honesty, I must admit that I don’t want that result. But acknowledging our human limitations is a very hard—but very real—part of the Christian faith. We don’t know everything. Maybe what we consider the best result may not truly be the best. So, with that in mind, we’re praying for a victorious race—where “victory” doesn’t necessarily have to equal gold. And if that happens, no matter the result, we’ll be overjoyed.
For those of you who want to pray with us, we’d love that. In the past, we’ve been so blessed by friends and family who have taken the time to pray for us. We’ve seen firsthand how it makes a difference. God listens. And from our experiences, Nick and I can both say that our lives are full of answered prayers that are a testament to that.