Lying on the snow, I was afraid to move. The pain in my body started to diminish; however, the suffering of my soul flooded me entirely. A huge wave of despair dragged me down to a dark abyss. Something irreparable had happened so quickly. I didn’t even have a chance to understand. I struggled to sit up.
When my mind started to clear, I saw one of my teammates arrive before First Aid staff. Earlier that teammate had been standing close to the second jump during my run down it. He must have seen me crash after the 360 jump. That harmful landing I will never forget which had brought me to this condition. The torturous pain was now being substituted by a gnawing sensation. Even now, 7 years after this injury, the crunchy sound of broken ligaments and cartilage in chicken bones during a meal causes me goose bumps.
Sitting on the snow, with First Aid staff finally arriving, I couldn’t believe that my lifelong dream had been smashed in a few seconds. I suddenly realised a reason for my despair, collapsed great expectations. The smashing of my dreams evoked much more suffering than the physical trauma. Before the crash, I had bright hopes for my future, but now I could only see darkness. Like a person who has bet all his money on one horse and lost, I had put all my energy and efforts in to one goal, performing in the Olympic Games. I figured that achieving this goal would bring me lasting happiness and fulfillment. It would be my crowning glory. It would make me unique, give me confidence and the highest of self-esteem. Now with dashed hopes and what I thought was a dark future, I asked myself, “What will I do with my life?” I couldn’t imagine that in four years’ time, I would actually be on my way to Sochi…
Skiing on the snow during those 22nd Olympic Games, I flashed back to the accident, the knee surgeries, all the rehab and then that first post-accident flat slope for beginners that I attempted. I remember the fear and happiness that interlaced in me. “I am doing it”- was the message that had resounded in my head during that first post accident run.
I overcame many difficulties on the way to participation in the Olympic Games. I accomplished my goal and I realized my dream. Despite my initial euphoria, I soon realized some new unrest. I wondered where I could go from here. What new role in society could I play? Fulfilment of my biggest dream surprisingly turned out to be a new beginning, not an end point. It was the beginning of a new path to a truer me. I needed to learn who I was beyond an elite athlete whose life had always been very structured by others every hour of the day. Now I felt lost. I realized that my life was like a blank slate. It was mine now, but how would I fill that slate? What choices would I make? Sure I’d led an exciting life as an elite athlete, but what about now, as an “ordinary” person? In being so focused on achieving one goal for so many years, I had seriously neglected other parts of my life. Now, instead of the lasting happiness and fulfilment I thought the Olympics would bring me, I felt devastated and confused. I realized with my new freedom that I didn’t really know myself at all. To fill my slate in a meaningful way meant getting to know myself. It was a time of uncertainty and also excitement.
Now having a new 360 degree view of my life, I have a greater understanding about goals. I understand that goals are not end points in and of themselves, but rather doorways to new beginnings. Life is a blend of achievements and discovering new opportunities.