In an earlier post, I wondered what London 2012 would provide in terms of memorable moments – broken records, outstanding achievements, personal stories and inspiration to us all. At that time, I anticipated that there would be some surprises but I completely underestimated the scale of what it would bring.
On two separate occasions GB medal-winners encouraged others to “go for it” and live the dream, along the lines of “I’m just an ordinary girl; if I can do it, anyone can“.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won gold medal in the women’s pair
Great Britain has an excellent record in rowing, so it was quite likely that some medals would come from the rowing events. But the remarkable thing is that Helen only started rowing in 2008 and was motivated by watching the GB team winning in Beijing. She was selected to take part in the Sporting Giants scheme, an initiative from Sir Steve Redgrave.
“I remember sitting in a room in Bisham Abbey [the National Sports Centre] and someone saying: ‘A gold medallist in 2012 could be sat in this room. Look around you’. I thought: ‘Right, I’m going to make that me.’ It was quite surreal.”
Immediately after winning the gold, exhausted and breathing heavily she said “I hope my story can be an inspiration for kids in PE or at home thinking about taking up a new sport. Just go on, go for it – you don’t know what’s going to happen”.
She was originally motivated enough to think “I can do that” in response to watching others win gold, and spent the next four years proving that she could. And then she encouraged others to follow her. Totally inspiring.
Samantha Murray won silver in the modern pentathlon
Asked immediately after her final race what she was doing four years ago, she said she was doing her A-levels, having started pentathlon, but she wasn’t competing at a senior level. As a child she had wanted to be an Olympian, and at the age of 12 had put a poster on her bedroom wall of pentathlon gold-medallist Steph Cook at the Sydney Olympics.
“Honestly, if you have a goal – if there’s anything you want to achieve in life – don’t let anybody get in your way. You can do it. If I can do it, and I’m a normal girl, anyone can do what they want to do”. Again, totally inspiring. I wonder how many posters of Sam will adorn bedroom walls of future Olympians.
I suspect that many of us will immediately think to ourselves “but you’re absolutely not an ‘ordinary girl’, you’re exceptional”, and we’d be right – they are exceptional. In one important respect, they are more exceptional than the rest of us… they believe in themselves.
As these ‘ordinary girls’ showed, achieving great things always involves getting over the first hurdle – believing in ourselves. It might not be the hardest part, but it is surely the most important.