In case you missed it, Robby Kelley showed the world what’s he’s made of this week. The Cochran Clan, Vermonter, Redneck Racer, Catamount, US Ski Teamer when it suits him, ski racer to the core was on his way to a breakthrough World Cup finish in Schladming. Making it to the second run in a World Cup slalom is a minor miracle. Making it down both runs full tilt is divine. Kelley was almost there. He had a clean course for the second run, under the lights, in front of 60,000 roaring fans. This was his moment. And then, as it so heartbreakingly often does, disaster struck. This is disappointment you can feel even through the TV, and hear in the collective gasp of a crowd primed for the triumph of the underdog. But the crowd got something to really cheer, because Kelley wasn’t leaving without his World Cup points. He could have skidded through the finish and been another bummed out frustrated ski racer, or he could have done this:
This time of year can be rough on ski racers. It’s far enough in for some people to have had big success, and not far enough in for everyone to have found his or her momentum. It’s when you can start making comparisons to where you want to be or where you think you should be, and feel like you are behind. It’s dark and cold and icy and easy to feel sorry for yourself, especially if all you have to show for yourself is a string of DNF’s and disappointing results. You can sulk, and droop and ski out of the course again, or you can double down and approach every run as a clean slate.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” As frustrating as it is to hear, it really is all about confidence. But confidence is a wily thing, and you can’t regain it by flipping a switch. You have to earn it back methodically, turn by turn and then run by run, until finally you put two runs together. That’s the way it works. There is no magic or secret formula. Now is the time to channel your Robby Kelley, or your Anna Fenniger or, while we’re on to him, your Winston Churchill, and “Never, never, never give up!”