18 Jun To the girl who doesn’t win all the time.
I am sorry to hear that you lost your race today. That’s what makes racing in Henley cut-throat, brutal and pissing honest- it divides a winner from a loser. These is no second chances and you cannot afford to screw up and redeem yourself in the next race because there is no next race. You lose, you’re out. Sorry to hear that you’re the loser today. I know it hurts, but there can only be one winner, and it is not you. I know the hardest thing to do is to respond to people who come and tell you that they are sorry that you lost because you have no idea what to say to them-thank you for being sorry for you?So I’ll stop feeling sorry for you and I hope you’re done feeling sorry for yourself too.
I know life has been great after you’ve qualified for Rio. It is a dream come true and you have found it so hard to accept that you’ve actually made it. It must have been a good feeling to have people who once didn’t believe in you come up to you to congratulate you. And even better, you have people telling you that they didn’t expect you to qualify. You thank them for their honestly and secretly rub your hands together in delight. I guess you’re right about proving people wrong- you can be pretty good at that.
I just wanted to tell you that the fact that you qualified for the Olympics doesn’t make you any different- as a person, as a rower, as an Aisyah. I know it might have been hard on you trying to please the people around you, especially those who have supported you and who are proud of you. But Aisyah, remember that you are doing this for yourself, not for them. And you should know by now that you cannot make everyone happy, and even if you succeed in making the people around you happy, you’ll end up being unhappy. So, I don’t particularly like it when you tell yourself silly things like, “I shouldn’t be losing” and “I cannot screw up” because at the end of the day, no matter how you train like a machine, you’re all human from head to toe. You falter and fall, you make mistakes, you fail, and you certainly don’t win all the time. So stop thinking that just because you’ve qualified for the Olympics, you are supposed to win all the time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t put in your best effort or aim to win. If you enter a race without the intention of winning it, you might as well not race at all. It is probably okay not to win, but it is certainly not okay not to give your all. I guess that is what being an Olympian is about- confronting your fears and pushing yourself each time, giving it your best shot. Olympic-material athletes do not ever give in.They are fucking relentless.
And yes, your coach did mention this to you today. It is about being relentless. I love that word, now you go and embrace it.
The world might not see it that way. The world might wonder if you qualified just because you got lucky on that day. The world might think you didn’t deserve to be an Olympian because you got kicked out on the first round of the Henley Women’s Regatta. But you don’t care what the world thinks. What they think will not be affecting your boat speed in any way. What people tell each other is not going to make the wind blow harder in your lane to slow you down. You don’t care what the world thinks, Aisyah. Because when you’re out there at the starting blocks, it is just you and what happens in your head. The world may be on the sidelines, cheering you on or bringing you down but the only thing that is going to make you fast or slow, win or lose, is that little voice inside your head.
Thing is Aisyah, you know you have it in you (do you need me to tell you these all the time?). You know you’re fucking strong, you know you’re fit and your technique on water has definitely come a long way. You know what it feels like to race, you’ve done it a hundred times, if not a thousand at least. You know what it takes to win, and you know how much it hurts to lose. You know what will make you race well, and you know what you need to do to pick yourself up from a terrible race. Maybe your twelve years rowing competitively wasn’t really twelve years considering the first 9 years wasn’t consistent. But twelve years of rowing is a long time, whether you’re on top form or being a fat, lazy rower. Twelve years is more than what anyone is able to endure considering the journey wasn’t really smooth-sailing and any sane person would have called it quits the moment they see the situation of your sport in your country. You used to be embarrassed when people ask you how long you have been rowing because it sure is a pretty long time and it makes you feel old but you’ve learnt to accept it that you’ve been in the sport for that long and now you’re proud of it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being hooked onto something that keeps you alive- and healthy (and legal for that matter) for 12 years, and possibly more.
So please don’t let that little voice in your head get to you, Aisyah. I know it took you months to get confront it, after it continuously instills irrational fear in you and cause you to fuck up for every race. Don’t let it come back and eat you up again. Be smart, Aisyah. You know that mental skills training works exactly the same way as your physical training. You never stop working on it. You’re almost an Olympian now.You have to do whatever it takes to make sure you’re the best version of yourself when you’re in Rio.
There are some athletes out there who are spectacularly outstanding and who wins all the time (and by saying this it doesn’t mean that they don’t put in the effort for every race because I am very sure they do but some athletes are simply talented/gifted/what have you). Unfortunately, you’re not one of them. You’re tall, but not tall enough. You’re big, but not big enough. You’re not the one who towers over everyone and just by one look people will know you’re gonna smash it. You’re not the one with the outstanding personal best timing on water. You’re not a World Record holder, you’re not a World Champion, hell you’re not even close to being in the Rowing record books. You’re not the one who is going to be on the podium of the Olympics because you need to be realistic that you’re not there yet. You’re the one who will lose and disappoint yourself and others, you’re the one who makes mistakes, sometimes repeat it again and finally after it slaps you hard across your face, you finally learn from it. You’re the one who screws up and fails. You’re the one who people feel sorry for when you don’t perform. You’re the one with the inconsistent track record.
But hey, you’re gonna be the one who fights all the time. You’re gonna be the one who will give hope to the other little fighters who are on the losing end of their battles to keep on fighting. Because the only time you have really lost in life, is the moment you stop fighting and give up.
There will be some people in your life who thinks that you should stop it with all these “hero speeches” of yours. Tell them to buzz off because you don’t need them in your life and certainly, you’re better off without them. Continue to do what makes you happy, Aisyah. And like how you get hope from stories, you’ll never know when your stories might be the source of hope for others.
You raced awfully today and got kicked out of the competition. It is a hard hit because more people know you now and they have expectations of you. You have utterly disappointed them.
And then what happens?
Remember the day you threw away your Olympics necklace because you raced poorly in a regatta right before the qualifiers. Shit happens.
You pick yourself up and move on.