virgin islands scene

To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.
-- John Marshall


Thursday, July 25, 1996

The agony of victory

By now, the whole world knows the story of Kerri Strug’s inspiring performance Tuesday evening.

It was in the Olympic women’s team gymnastics competition. The United States team had been comfortably in the lead. Then, in the vault competition, US team member Dominique Moceanu fell on her first try. As she walked back to the starting line for her second attempt, the loss of momentum was palpable. As Moceanu executed her vault for her second and final time, it was clear that one thing dominated her thoughts -- the fact that she had just fallen. Sure enough, she fell again.

Next up was Strug. She, too, was obviously fixated on Moceanu’s fall, because she did exactly the same thing. And when Strug fell, she suffered an injury to her left ankle. As she limped and stumbled back to the starting line for her second attempt, she was clearly in pain.

Ironically, in her pain, Kerri Strug suddenly had something that was capable of pushing away all other thoughts. Something that could get her mind off her previous fall, or the two previous falls of Dominique Moceanu, or the crowd of 30,000 that was watching, or the fact that she was in Olympic competition, and that her final vault would make the difference betweem a silver medal and a gold.

Freed from those negative pressures, and wanting to get off her feet as soon as possible, she just did it. Just as she had done thousands of times in practice, Kerri Strug executed a near-perfect vault and landing, without a fall. She stood straight, with arms outstretched, long enough to satisfy the judges, and then collapsed in agonizing pain. Her performance was good enough to make up for the earlier falls and win the gold medal for her team. Within moments she was being celebrated around the world.

Sometimes when we think that things can’t get any worse, they do. And yet, it is that extreme adversity which forces us to reach deep inside ourselves, and find strength and capability we never knew we had.

— Ralph Marston

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Copyright ©1996 Ralph S. Marston, Jr. All Rights Reserved. The Daily Motivator is provided for your personal, non-commercial use only. Other than personal sharing, please do not re-distribute without permission.