It wasn’t a beautiful finish. It wasn’t a record-breaker. It didn’t make the podium. Arguably though, it will be the most remembered and celebrated race of this Olympics.
Russian Cross-Country skier Anton Gafarov was not having the time of his life. He was not feeling very victorious on the course today. It seems that whatever could go wrong for him did. He fell, he was at the end of the pack by a mile and his ski was broken. But Anton, appearing to want to avoid the eyes of the crowd of witnesses was determined to finish his race. He just kept going. He got up and tried to ski with equipment that could no longer do the job he needed it to. He just kept going.
Imagine being in his boots. Probably humiliated. Probably tired. Probably discouraged, but determined. There were years and months and long days of training and preparation for this event. There were dreams and visions of what it would look like to compete and win at this Olympic Event in his own country. I promise you all the dreams, visions and hopes did not include falling, breaking a ski and finishing last by a mile. This was not what he had dreamed of.
Anton is a trained athlete and he did not stomp off the course feeling sorry for himself. No one would blame him if he had. Even the announcers on TV suggested he may be better off giving up his race or at least removing his equipment and walking across the finish line. But Anton was not in a walking race. He was skiing and he was determined to ski to the finish.
It was at the very moment when he least felt like a champion. The very moment when his emotions and thoughts must have been jumbled that the most unexpected help arrived. A coach from Team Canada stepped into the course and brought him a ski. He assisted Anton in removing the broken ski and replacing it with a new one, a whole one. one that could hold his weight and do the job. It took less than a minute, but in that short moment Justin Wadsworth restored hope, dignity, pride and courage to a competitor. He removed an obstacle and restored Anton’s ability to complete his race. On two skis. As a skier. (Watch here)
We can relate to Anton. We too have fallen, gotten discouraged, lost equipment we needed to rely on. We too have felt the sting of broken dreams, crushed hopes and humiliating outcomes. We have been tempted to take our skis off and walk off the course. We have felt the sting of lonely tears when we felt all alone, left behind watching our dreams disappear.
For some of us it was more than we could take and we are sitting on the side of the track wondering what could have gone so wrong. We feel hopeless, embarrassed, too ashamed to keep going. We are discouraged.
What difference would a Justin Wadsworth make in our lives? What would happen if someone came alongside us and whispered an encouragement? Shared something that helped us get up again? What if someone just gave us the tools that we so desperately needed, but couldn’t get for ourselves? What if someone came alongside without judgement, took a few seconds to help us remove what was broken and replace it with what was whole? What if they breathed enough life into us for us to finish our race?
Anton didn’t need a coaching session. He didn’t need a new sponsor. He didn’t need a new plan, a new strategy or new systems. Anton probably had a lot of equipment back at the base, and he wasn’t lazy or unprepared. He just had the unexpected happen to him and at that moment all he needed was a little help.
We all have a race to run. Not all of us will run a race that makes the podium of life. We won’t all be lauded by the masses, celebrated as national heroes or given accolades. Still we all have a race to complete. That race may not be glorious and record-shattering, but it is being watched by so many who need us to finish. Their courage depends on our persistence. Their ability to start their race depends on us completing ours. They need us to just run the race set before us so they can run the race set before them.
We can’t all end on the podium, but we can all be a Justin Wadsworth. We can all come alongside someone who is discouraged, hurting and ashamed and help them change their broken ski. It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment. We don’t have to be their coach. We don’t even have to be on the same team, but we can make all the difference in their world.
So many have prepared all they could, trained and practiced. They have coaches, and equipment. They’re not lazy, unskilled or uninitiated. They just got blindsided by the unexpected in the middle of their race and they can’t get back to their base right now. They can’t reach their support team and their replacement equipment is too far away to help right now. They just need a Justin Wadsworth, in the right place, at the right time able and willing to help because they are there.
So let me ask you, are you able to help someone finish their race? Are you willing? You don’t have to commit to anything long-term. You don’t have to leave your race or jeopardize your finish. You don’t have to create a plan, a system, or prepare a policy. All you have to do is be ready and willing to step in, provide a life-line and help someone else finish their race. Will you?