Photo courtesy of zastavki.com
I was preparing to compete at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and my focus had drastically changed over the years. I now focused on my strengths.
I am one of the best skeleton drivers in the world. My speeds are rarely beat. I have the ability to slow time down in my mind and see every single inch of ice as I fly down the icy chute at ninety miles per hour. I understand how my sled and body will react to the physics of each curve as I experience intense forces of pressure. I can quickly alter my steering to ensure a safe and fast run.
I learned to be honest with myself. I knew that I had weaknesses. My start, the forty-meter sprint, had always been an area that had inhibited my performance. Other athletes were faster and more agile in the beginning portion of the track. That was okay. I didn’t have their talents, and they didn’t have mine.
I know competed on a sled that was perfect for me. My husband, Janson, had designed it, and I was confident in its ability. Other athletes had brand new equipment the day of the race. It was the Olympics, after all, and the best would be required. Other nations had millions of dollars invested into research and development of equipment in order to ensure that their athletes had the best opportunity for success. I didn’t let it bother me. I had confidence that what I had was good enough. It had gotten me to where I was, and it would get me to where I wanted to go.
I never paid attention to any of the other athletes. Not because I was trying to avoid them or prove a point of any kind, but because each race truly was my moment. I wanted to take it all in, enjoy every minute, and learn what my best. I wanted to simply but definitively give my best.
I want to ask you one more time: who is your competition?
When I first began competing, my competition was everyone else. I compared my weaknesses to their strengths, belittling my own strengths and discounting my successes. I focused on who they were and where they were going. I wanted what they had and couldn’t see past my own insecurities.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life is that our fiercest competition will always be with ourselves. We are reminded of this lesson in 2 Corinthians 10:12:
But they are measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
As we compare ourselves with others, we set ourselves up for disappointments throughout our lives. Each one of us is uniquely shaped, talented, beautiful, and capable of greatness. No one else can equally provide what you have to offer to this world and to those around you. As long as we strive to develop our talents to the best of our ability and not compare them to another’s, we will most definitely partake of happiness and make this world a better place to live.
This story is from “Focused: Keeping Your Life on Track, One Choice at a Time” by Noelle Pikus Pace. Noelle became the first American woman to win the Overall World Cup Title in skeleton in 2005. A terrible accident prevented her from competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics, but she came back and placed fourth in the 2010 Winter Olympics in skeleton.
Following a miscarriage in 2012, Noelle and her husband Janson decided she would come out of retirement and compete in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia. She won the silver medal. You can learn more about her journey in her book.