I am not going to try to convince anyone that I have any idea what it takes to make a great figure skater. To borrow a line, “it’s just not my bag baby!” The nuances of the sport and the specific technical qualities of a championship skater are beyond my grasp. But, I feel I am a pretty good judge of one attribute most skaters have and I have to say they are on a level by themselves.
The mental toughness a figure skater must show during their performance is stuff of legend. Picture it, you train for four years, every single day for this one moment to shine. The pinpoint focus these athletes need to display will directly correlate into their performance.
I am around athletes all the time. I see them in their highs and in their lows. I see when they flourish and fail. The one common denominator in failing is the lack of attention to detail. I know you sports fans see it with your favorite teams and athletes. There are certain days where your team just “doesn’t have it.” The body is willing but the mind fails them. Much of the time in professional sports its fatigue. I see it at the collegiate level all the time. A long road-trip, a restless night of sleep, routines being disrupted, and all of a sudden performance suffers.
I think the best of the best rise, when others are hindered. Rarely do we see great athletes who are mentally weak. It’s tough to find those that excel at a high level who mentally don’t have the wherewithal to ride the ebb of everyday life. It’s ups and downs.
I am so impressed with figure skaters and their ability to focus on this one moment in time. A professional basketball player has 82 chances to be great or not. A baseball has 162 chances. Even a football player has 16 opportunities to be spot on. For figure skaters and even gymnasts in these solo athletic endeavors it is truly a one shot deal. They need to be consistently great for four years to put them in a position to thrive at the World Championships and Olympic Trials. Then, they need to shine for two specific days if they want to be a champion.
So, as I watched the ladies figure skating at the Sochi Games. I can honestly tell you, I don’t know the difference between a triple-axel and a triple-lutz and a triple toe-loop. But, I can see toughness. I can see competitiveness, I see the joy in performing and steely eyed determination to win. That is what has me watching, that is why I love sport. And, it’s truly exemplified by some of these amazing athletes who mentally refuse to be defeated.