Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I Love the High Jump...

As posted on CBC Sports Day in Canada - happening September 17, 2011 across Canada

Credit: B. Vancraynest 
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  ~Henry Ford

In the world of sports, there are few competitions where even the winner will always end on a failure.  The high jump is one of those sports… and it is my sport.

The high jump is a sport requiring athletes to successfully clear a bar, which is continuously raised in height.  Each athlete has three attempts to clear the bar; if successful, the bar is raised to a greater height.  The athlete who clears the highest height is declared the winner.  But even for that athlete they will depart the competition failing to have cleared their last height.  Inevitably, there is always a height each athlete will fail to clear in a competition.  Though this presents a continuous challenge, this failure also provides motivation to me as an athlete.

To be an elite high jumper you must be strong, powerful, fast and have equally strong mental prowess.  There is always a time during competition when the bar will look high and threatening, even to myself, a Team Visa Olympic high jumper.  However, in that moment, I am also fueled with excitement and exhilaration as I attack the bar.  Even though it is high, I am not afraid of it.  I welcome the challenge as it can only make me a better athlete. 

We will generally fail more times than we succeed.  But it is how we handle those moments of failure that define us and allow us to be even more successful the next time.  If we choose to see failure as obstacles, that is all we will ever experience, and our goals will become fantasies. 

I love the high jump because it mimics life.  It is about trying to keep my eyes on the goal of jumping high, in spite of a threatening barrier staring me in the face.  I must believe in my abilities to meet the challenge faced before me and not ever allow any doubt to creep into the corners of my brain.  The moment I doubt, I no longer see my goal and begin to see only the obstacles. 

It was almost a year ago that I won gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.  During this time, I was incredibly ill.  A week before leaving for India I was diagnosed with 20 brain lesions, which carried with it a host of symptoms including migraines, numbness and pain on the right side of my body.  It wouldn’t be untilfour months later that they would be able to diagnose it as simply an autoimmune virus.  During the Commonwealth Games, I knew I was seriously ill, but didn’t know why, and I was incredibly scared.  But even during this time of challenge, I wasn’t going to allow it to dissuade me from my goal of winning.  I know with certainty that had I allowed myself to see my illness as an obstacle, I would not have realized my eventual goal of becoming the 2010 Commonwealth Games Champion. 

This is what life is all about - keeping your eyes on the goal, being brave enough to go after what it is you really want, and never settling.  Each time you pick yourself up from a setback and get back on the path of your desire, you are affirming your commitment to that goal.  If there is magic in the high jump and in life, it is scaling new heights and daring to go after a dream that nobody sees but you.

The greatest feeling to me is running with full speed at this seemingly imposing barrier, but not having a care in the world at how high it is, as my body leaves the ground and floats through the air clearing a magnificent height.  I’m on a mission to see just how high I really can jump; and though I may fail sometimes, every miss I have is actually a step closer to jumping higher.

How high do you want to soar in life?

Soaring high,
Nicole Forrester, 2010 Commonwealth Gold Medalist, Olympian, Team Visa Athlete & PhD Candidate