There’s an oft repeated maxim which advises us all that when the situation gets tough it’s the tough that gets going. When a person is confronted with extreme circumstances then the true measure of that person shines through. Such has been the case at the current Vancouver Winter Olympics and in particular the women’s figure skating competition.
The women’s figure skating program has traditionally been the marquee event of the winter games. It’s the one sport that is seen as the culmination of technical wizardry and artistic flourish where you get athletes performing gravity defying jumps and spins encased in a fluid and graceful aesthetic presentation. It’s also a stifling and pressure – cooker cauldron of expectations from fans, media and country. The seemingly unbearable weight of expectation is heaped upon many a young teenaged shoulders who must in the course of little more than 4 minutes fulfill her own and more ominously her country’s ambitions. It’s a tall order even for the most stout hearted of adults let alone teenagers.
But at these winter games there is a 19 year old South Korean girl who has achieved all that she has set out to do and in turn set off a surge of pride and patriotism in her native country. Kim Yuna came to Vancouver with all the eyes of the sport and her fellow country men trained on her 24/7. She was expected to deliver the gold medal nothing less. Failure (i.e silver or bronze) was not an option. That she delivered in such spectacular fashion scoring the highest mark ever for a female skater and breaking her own world record speaks volumes about the tenacity and strength of mind of this young girl. It really takes a character of exceptional excellence to achieve what she has done especially under unrelenting and merciless pressure . Off the ice though Kim is a shy, unassuming teenager speaking in soft, gentle tones while being interviewed – much like another 19 year old that I know of.
Both are contradictions of their natural self when compared to their time in the spotlight. When away from the cameras and general public both are soft spoken, wide-eyed innocents but the moment they hit the stage they turn into their alter ego and display a commanding presence coupled with fierce determination and courage all the while marrying the technical ingenuity and artistic drama in an effortless display of showmanship and connection to the audience that their chosen profession requires.
Even though both are culturally and ethnically worlds apart there are similarities in their common character traits and in their pursuit of excellence and distinction. Delivering stellar performances with aplomb when the situation demands it and in persevering with determination and passion in their respective fields of endeavor they have proven the old adage that adversity and pressure truly reveals character.
I am now, very happily, a fan of two remarkable 19 year olds.