|Photo Mathias Ebert via EDGE|
This year in Cologne was a different story. My husband Eduardo, who made his sports debut at the 2006 Games with a silver medal in martial arts, was home this go round taking care of our dogs. I was rooming with 17 other grapplers on the east side of Cologne, a Spartan dormitory setting suitable to our minimalist needs. I was responsible with making sure things ran smoothly, liaising with tournament officials, and coaching my teammates. And, my health markedly worse than it had been four years earlier, restricting my ability to train on the mat, made it questionable that I would get on the mat at all on tournament day. And if I did, I had already promised my significant other that it would be the last match of my career. So it was now and then never.
The day of my tournament, I was dizzy and my right hip was painful and weak. I had concentrated on building up my leg strength coming into Cologne, but I can never tell when one or the other is going to go on the fritz. This would not be my day for victory.
My two matches went by in a blur. I was matched against two very experienced veteran wrestlers on a mission and they deserved the wins. The second match ended with a ferocious cross face that fractured my nose. I went down tough, but I went down.
Twenty years ago, a loss like that would have torn me up. But this time there was no time to grieve: I had earned my team one point, I got to coach all of my teammates and all of them won, and the tournament, though small (40 wrestlers) ran well and brought together wrestlers from Australia to Europe who had not had a chance to face each other for eight years.
Better for me was watching the performances of wrestlers I have worked with from other clubs the past seven years: athletes who entered wrestling filled with doubts who were now cranking out successful, technical wrestling--confident wrestling. Better for me were the quiet moments when they thanked me for sharing my knowledge, for encouraging them through the years.
It was a feeling of mutual respect, of gratitude, of appreciation, of camaraderie on par with the greatest moments in my varsity career. Sports doesn’t get more powerful than that.
A moment worthy of Olympus, but not for the gods or the elite. For everyone.
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