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The Beauty of 4th Place

I find myself on a crowded commuter train at 5:30 in the morning with tears streaming down my face reading from my lap top. Ok let’s back track a few weeks to understand what’s led me here.

The Rio Olympics were a strange affair for me the first Olympics I can remember that I felt somewhat distant from. A combination of being away on my family holidays (hey even coaches deserve a holiday sometime 😊) and a feeling of scepticism that had permeated inside of me from the drug, corruption and sleaze stories surrounding the Games. I do remember watching on catch-up the men’s and women’s road races. Both of which were amazing spectacles to watch. Both had characters that seemed on course to win only to find themselves overhauled on the finishing straight. The women’s fourth place finisher seemed particularly heartbreaking as Mara Abbott had raced a brilliant race up to the last 300m. Oh well that’s sad but another 4th place finisher alongside the hundreds of others that would be heartbroken including GB’s Non Stanford in the Triathlon (here’s a great blog by her – classy and humble). But beyond that I forgot about Mara until I came across her blog about her 4th place experience. And it’s funny how with all the glitz of gold and multiple golds it’s the words of a 4th place “loser” that have moved me to tears of joy. I really recommend you read her piece here: I’m sure it will move you to tears as well.

They say 4th place is the very worse place to finish but in this case we should all be ecstatic that Mara finished 4th because without that we may never have got the following beautiful writing:

“For the final race of a career, creating a performance that was truly your best. In which you were tactically exactly where you needed to be at every juncture. Where you overcame your errors of the past and superseded the weaknesses others ascribed to you. Where you took the layer upon imperceptible layer of learning acquired over a decade of wins and losses and embodied all the lessons. Those sorts of race days might be even rarer than pure victories.”

Rarer indeed and more beautiful than a dozen gold medals.

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