OLYMPIANS... SUPERHUMAN OR JUST SUPER-HUMANS?
By Missy Fitzwater
There are certain events in everyone’s lifetime that always elicit a visceral response. One of these, for me, has always been the Olympics. As a little girl, I remember the excitement and anticipation I felt in an Olympic year; from the journey of the torch travelling great distances to reach its final destination in the host city, to the dazzling pageantry of the opening ceremony. But most the most captivating portion has always been the parade of athletes, filing into the arena behind their respective country’s flag.
This is the moment when a lump forms in my throat and chill bumps erupt across my skin. Watching these seemingly immortal beings, the gods and goddesses of their sports, enter into the most elite competition of their lives, well, it is simply spellbinding.
Having never been an athlete of any sort, I never understood why this affected me on a cellular level, but I was completely enraptured by these moments. I had always felt that these athletes had been bestowed with rarefied traits that made them extraordinary. It, in my mind, made their talents unattainable to mere mortal athletes. It wouldn’t be until years later when I discovered boxing, would I begin to realize why the athletes had such a profound effect on me.
At the inception of my training, a very wise coach told me that I did not have natural athletic ability. At first blush I thought, well, that’s it then…this new passion of mine will likely be just for fun, and short lived. He seemingly confirmed to me what I thought I already knew. I was most definitely not one of the chosen few. But I continued to go to the gym and train every day. I began to take notice of who in the gym seemed to be especially talented. I assumed that they, most assuredly, were the athletes with “natural ability.” I scrutinized these boxers to see if any of them had been blessed with the super powers that would make them Olympic material. But what I noted, was that these kids worked hard and pushed themselves to new limits every day. In my mind, they grinded far too hard to be a part of the elite few.
Then, one day, there was someone different in the gym. Someone I recognized. The captain of the U.S.A. Team, Cam Awesome. Although I was completely unaware at the time, I had found my way to a gym and coach who were well-versed in the development of superior athletes. This was Cam’s gym. Cam is one of those athletes that I knew had been bestowed with the traits of a “super hero.” I was elated to have the opportunity to observe these talents first-hand. I watched, like a quiet little mouse in the corner, waiting for a display of amazing feats. But what I witnessed was something unexpected to me.
Cam went through the same routines in the gym that we all did. He hammered away at the bags relentlessly, his chest heaving, and sweat pouring from him. He then moved on and did mitt work with one of the trainers. He continued this for a while, at times frustrated as he tweaked his technique until he was satisfied with it. I was taken aback by his frustration. How could he be frustrated? Where were these ethereal gifts? Over the next few weeks, whenever Cam was in the gym, I continued to observe and absorb all that I could from him. I learned a little bit about his personal journey to the Olympics. That’s when a new ideal of the Olympic athlete began to emerge for me.
Left - Cam Awesome USA Boxer and Rio Qualifier
The dawning realization was, that these athletes like Cam Awesome, are indeed special, but not because they are blessed with supernatural abilities. Rather, these athletes possess a deep-seeded desire to be extraordinary at all costs. They are ferociously devoted to it. Indeed there are high prices to pay for the visions they have for themselves. There is an abundance of sacrifices in their personal lives. There are struggles and stumbles to overcome. There are the dogged daily grinds that must be completed without exception. The attention to diet and health that can leave them feeling deprived. In short, they “live” their sport.
Left - Missy Fitzwater Amateur Boxer
I now fully understand what that wise coach meant when he said that I '...did not have natural athletic ability.' I thought that he meant my abilities were limited, and therefore my successes would also be limited. Now I realize he was giving me a precious gift. He was letting me know that if this was the life I wanted, I could have it. It wouldn’t come easily, but it was there for the taking if I was willing to sacrifice, persevere, and succumb to the daily grind of pushing myself to new limits every day. These things I can relate to. These things give me hope. These things give me purpose. Although the Olympics may never be a part of my personal journey, I have to believe that they could be if I choose to “live” my sport.