After a great Day-1 of competition with some of the very best CrossFit Athletes, not only in NorCal, but in all the World, (Jason Khalipa, 2008 CrossFit Games Champion, just set the new World-Record on WOD-2 with an incredible 11:24, for example!), Team CrossFit West Santa Cruz is in 14’th place overall after Day-1. We are still legitimately “in the hunt” and the coveted top-3 spots are not out of reach. …The competition is NOT over!!
…Laura Wilkinson is a US Olympian. …22 at the time, Laura represented the USA in the 10 Meter Platform (diving competition) at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. (No American woman has even come close to winning this event since Leslie Bush won the Gold at Tokyo in 1964.)
In March 2000, just six months before the summer Olympics, Laura broke 3 bones in her foot during a land practice that involved somersaulting off a block onto a mat. She was unable to dive for two months during her recovery. During this time, Laura was reduced to using “mental imagery” of her dives as her only training tool. Prompted and guided by her coach, Ken Armstrong, Wilkinson embarked on a difficult training regimen that included standing in a cast for several hours a day on top of the platform to practice her push-offs. As soon as her cast was removed, Laura began practicing dives underwater to avoid putting pressure on her foot. She was only able to start diving again just weeks before the US Olympic Trials. Despite the significant disruption to her normal training and the physical pain she was constantly in, Wilkinson persevered and qualified for the Olympic games. The fact that she even qualified was an impressive feat in itself.
“The day I broke my foot, I thought my dreams were over,” Wilkinson said. “But God works in mysterious ways.”
Wilkinson never completely healed from the injury and was in constant pain. After earning her spot on the US Olympic Team in June, she decided to put off surgery till after the Olympics. To help manage the pain, Laura was forced to wear a special shoe to climb the ladder, though Olympic rules stated that upon reaching the top of the ladder, she had to remove the bootie before walking the platform to execute her dives. To observers, the pain seemed a sure distraction as there were a few times during the Olympics that she was clearly limping on her way to the platform, yet in interviews afterwards she claimed she didn’t even notice the pain.
After the first round of dives, Laura was in last place. Her medal hopes seemed fleeting. Laura kept her focus, continued onward and through the rounds, climbed in rankings. She was in fifth place after the second round and by the fourth round, Laura had absolutely no cushion for error. At 394 points, the two women right behind her had 393 points. Only 1 point separated the top three women. There was literally zero margin for error. The pressure was on Laura to perform with the others in pursuit, the hunter now hunted. Adding to the worry, Laura now had to perform the dive she was the least confident in, the inward 2 1/2 pike somersault; …the same dive she was practicing when she broke her foot. With the greatest pressure, she had to perform her toughest dive.
As Laura herself put it in an interview, “That’s my trouble dive. I got up there and prayed to God. I thought I had nothing to lose, and I didn’t hold anything back.” She had been unsure of that dive since breaking her foot in three places in March. “It became hard to push off, and I’m always nervous I’m too close to the tower,” she explained. “But it was worth risking!”
Laura came through in the clutch and dived very well. Her strong score helped her maintain her narrow lead despite the fact that all four divers behind her bounced back with excellent scores.
Laura faced enormous pressure in the final round since she had to jump first and set the standard for the four women to shoot for. A weak score would certainly give the women behind her a huge incentive while a good score would put the pressure back on them. Laura was only 1 point ahead of the 2nd place woman and 6 points ahead of 3rd place. Again she had no margin for error.
Laura’s dive was strong, averaging “8.5”, but now she had to wait, …watching the other divers to see if they could execute a perfect dive and overtake her. It didn’t even have to be a “10”. A couple women could average “9”s and catch Laura. A dive averaging a “9” for world class divers was certainly within their potential. The event was not even close to being over.
Li Na of China was the closest diver to Laura in the rankings and nailed her dive. The announcer said it was either a “9” or an “8.5”. Sure enough, Li Na received 4 “9”s and 3 “8.5”s. …Laura had edged her out by a point. One point!!! Just one single point separated first and second place. Laura Wilkinson was the 2000 Olympic 10-Meter Platform Gold Medallist!
…As a result of her strong mind, relentless will, solid work ethic and tremendous poise under intense pressure, Laura had become the Champion of the World. Gold Medal.
After breaking her foot, the farthest thing from reality in most people’s eyes would be for Laura to even make the US Olympic Team, much less win the Gold Medal. …Yet, she did. …And she wasn’t surprised. “I knew I could do it,” said Wilkinson.
…What can we learn from Laura Wilkinson?
There are many great stories from Olympians that we can learn from, whether injured or otherwise, …such as that of Japanese Gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, in the 1976 Olympics, …or Kerri Strug, US Gymnast in the 1996 Olympics, …and many others.
…Point of the story is this; …no matter how insurmountable the odds may seem, …or how slim your chances of overcoming the challenges before you, …you must NEVER quit, …never give up, …never relinquish that inherent will that fueled your indomitable spirit during all those countless hours of training. …Nor let quell that voracious hunger and savage drive from within, …that vicious and insatiable thirst of dominating your opponents, …crushing your competition, …and chasing gold.
…Like “David and Goliath”, …no challenge is indubitably unconquerable.
Ring Work/Play, (muscle ups, inversions, skin-the-cats, ice cream makers, levers, etc)
Member WOD of choice from the record board, (i.e.; a named WOD such as a Hero or a Girl/Storm)