Even Heroes Sometimes Fall

by Staci Troilo

OlympicsI didn’t think I was going to watch the Olympics. Not because the athletes and the games don’t interest me. They do. I’m a sucker for a good competition. I’m just not crazy about the coverage, and I haven’t been for the last several games. The announcers try to make drama where there isn’t any (and we all have too much of that in our lives as it is, especially those of us with teenagers in the house), and this whole tape delay business is annoying. I already know the results; why bother watching?

Because I love the competition.

And because these athletes deserve our support. They worked so hard for such a fleeting chance at glory, why not give them their fifteen minutes? After all, these are the heroes of our generation, the ones we tell our children to emulate.

When I was a child, I saw Nadia Comaneci score the first perfect ten in gymnastics, and I was hooked. (Yes, I know she wasn’t then an American citizen, but I was young at the time, what did I know, or care for that matter? Her performance was amazing!) That same winter, when Dorothy Hamill took gold in figure skating, I was begging for her haircut, along with the rest of the girls in America. *Clears throat* years later, my kids share that fascination with the Games and the athletes, waiting to see which of their heroes are going to climb the podium and claim the gold.

The thing is, heroes don’t always win. (tweet this)

Shaun White trained for the last four years for the Sochi Olympics. And for many years before that. Everyone expected the “three-peat” in the halfpipe. Shaun was the reigning champion, having won the gold at the last two Winter Games. He had stiff competition, sure, but come on, he’s Shaun White. He’s untouchable.

When you lift your heroes to lofty heights, they have a long way to fall. (tweet this)

Sochi Olympics

Shaun White mislanding during finals in halfpipe via Reuters/Mike Blake

White came in with high expectations on his shoulders, placed on him by the world and by himself. That’s a lot of pressure. He was prepared, and he continued to train while he was in Sochi. Maybe he trained too much. He doesn’t usually show up as early as he did. Maybe breaking his routine messed him up. Maybe the conditions of the pipe (less than stellar) conspired against him. Maybe he psyched himself out. Maybe his competitors were just better than him on that given day.

It really doesn’t matter. The event is over. Our lives go on.

It matters to Shaun White, who placed fourth.

It matters to Iouri Podladtchikov, who won gold.

The rest of us realize that sometimes, heroes fall. Sometimes at the worst possible time. (tweet this)

In the Olympics, there are no second chances. Just a lifetime of if only and what if.

In real life, there are second chances. If our heroes fall, we can watch their reactions and see if they get back up and rally (true heroes) or give up and go home (fair weather facsimiles). Everyone falls at some point. Let’s make sure we’re only emulating people with the courage to get back up.

For Writers

You’re going to face adversity in your journey. You’ll hit writer’s block, you’ll get rejection letters, you’ll receive bad reviews, you’ll be ignored. What are you going to do about it?

You can give up. Obviously you weren’t supposed to be a writer.

Not.

You are a writer because you have a passion for the craft, a burning desire to share your stories with the world through the written word. If you stumble, if you fall, you don’t stay down. You get back up and keep going, clawing your way if you have to. I know, because I’m a writer, too. I’m with you. And if you can’t get up on your own, let me know. I’ll help you.

And this desire to succeed? Don’t forget to instill it in your fictional heroes, too. To be interesting, characters have to face adversity. To be realistic, they have to fall. But to be heroic? They have to get back up again.

Today Americans “celebrate” Presidents’ Day. What used to be a celebration of two presidential birthdays has been consolidated into a day to honor all US Presidents. Love them or hate them, agree with their policies or not, this “holiday” began because of our first president who fought to establish this country and our sixteenth president who fought to keep it together as a single nation while liberating all its citizens. These are true heroes, and we shouldn’t forget or belittle their contributions.

Athletes, leaders… maybe family members, military personnel, or public servants. We all have heroes. Would you like to share a hero’s story here? Or maybe you’d like to discuss your favorite heroic moment of the Olympics? Let’s chat.

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12 Responses to Even Heroes Sometimes Fall

  1. P. C. Zick says:

    I didn’t think I’d watch them either, but then I became mesmerized. I think it was the female speed skater who overcame a drug-addicted mother to participate in the games this year. If that young woman, can go beyond that personal tragedy to achieve her goals and dreams, then who are we as writers to complain when success doesn’t come at the end of the final sentence of our book? I give myself this lecture quite often. I’m a writer for a reason and there is no giving in to petty concerns. Perseverance wins; whining does not. Thanks for the great reminder.

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      I have (so far) read one of your books. I would hardly call you “unsuccessful.” But you’re right, in the face of what many of these athletes go through, who are we to complain?

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  2. Staci I remember Nadia Comaneci too! My whole family watched and admired her strength and determination. What you find whilst watching the olympics is stories. Real life stories of heroes and villains. Athletes that fall and fall hard and wonderful triumphs. The human spirit has the amazing ability to get back up and try again after failure and I know the same applies to my writing. I have days of wonder and pure delight and days of not feeling the vibe. That is until I just get back in my seat and try again to write. Great post thank you.

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      The human spirit is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Whether we apply ourselves to physical challenges or mental ones, the fact that we can overcome adversity by sheer force of will can be awe-inspiring. Here’s to more of those “pure delight” days.

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  3. janna hill says:

    Current and relevant all tied up in a neat little package – with a bow. I totally agree with your remark about making drama where there isn’t any. Their “news” and “updates” sound more like discord and divisions to me, not just with the Olympics. :( When the reports/discussions head in that direction I hit the mute button and enjoy the scenery while I read about someone such as McKinley or work on the next book/story. Great post Staci.

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      Thanks, Janna. I think I might try your “mute” trick. The scenery there is just breathtaking, isn’t it? If I didn’t have airport-fear, I would love to travel there. Watching this coverage is the next best thing, and doing it without the dramatic commentary would make it all the better. (And I have to agree with you, the “drama” doesn’t stop with Olympic coverage… But then, I’d have my TV on mute all the time!)

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  4. Joe says:

    When I began blogging, I really started so I could write for myself, and maybe some friends and family. I needed to record memories and life lessons for reference. I do like it when others read, and compliment the writing. Its a great ego boost.

    But I always remember why I started. Being ignored or rejected has a small impact, because the one who will read my writing the most is me. The only person it has to be good enough for is the guy at the keyboard. Once I feel I can hit “publish”, I let the chips fall where they may.

    Favorite Olympic moment: 1980 hockey, hands down. I listened to the final minutes on an old radio in my Nonna’s kitchen. Al Michael’s call, even without the video, was transcendent.

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      You’re right, Joe. The words have to mean something to you, or they aren’t worth writing. And you and I have a similar history–so hopefully what we write will also have meaning for the family and friends who read our words. It is, after all, our legacy, and that’s what we’re trying to preserve.

      And I think you’re right… The Miracle on Ice is probably at the top of everyone’s list. Magical.

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  5. Wonderful post, Staci. It’s a great reminder that we need to regain focus and keep going. It isn’t about one event or work. We need to keep going forward. Thanks for sharing this.

    Oh – I had the Dorothy Hamill cut, too!

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      I feel like I’ve been hit over the head with positive messages for the last week. These athletes are so inspiring… I feel guilty when I don’t feel like writing or blogging or editing after I think about all the training they had to do to get to the Games. They truly are hard-working, diligent individuals who deserve our support, especially ones like Bode Miller who had physical and emotional trials to overcome and still managed to qualify. Amazing stories. Whether these athletes medal or not, they’re all heroes to me.

      And that was a popular hairstyle, wasn’t it? I had to beg for two years before my mom let me get it.

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  6. Joan says:

    Staci – this is such an encouraging post. I haven’t watched a lot of the Sochi games, but like you, I got hooked on the Olympics years ago. I was recovering from an illness during the 1980 Lake Placid games. I rejoiced when the USA Hockey team won gold and cried when Tai Babilonia and Randy couldn’t compete for the pairs figure staking event because of his injury. But although they didn’t win a medal, they didn’t give up skating. I was able to see them skate in person years later in Dallas.

    I think my all time favorite Olympic moment was when Brian Boitano won the gold in 1988 over Canada’s Brian Orser. When Brian stood on that podium and the national anthem was played, it sent chills down my spine. (Can you tell I love figure skating?) But Brian Orser didn’t give up either. He was an accomplished skater. As writers, we could learn something from Tai, Randy, and Brian O. – never give up!

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    • Staci Troilo says:

      I remember those moments, too. They were some of the biggest highs and lows in the history of the Games. There are so many remarkable moments in Olympic history. I also remember the 1980 Miracle on Ice game as one of my favorite Olympic moments… Talk about never giving up! And if we’re discussing memorable moments, I have to talk about the first perfect 10 ever awarded to a US Olympian in gymnastics… Mitch Gaylord. The 1984 men’s team were amazing; their win over China and Japan was huge that year. I’ll never forget it. These are the moments that stick with us, and moments like them I hope impact my kids the way they impacted me. (My daughter wasn’t alive for the 1996 Magnificent Seven Olympics, but she knows and is in awe of Kerri Strug’s story.) How can we not watch the Games? Think of the stories we might miss, the opportunities to learn that our kids might not catch? Thanks for sharing, Joan.

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