There are a few things I’ve learnt about the responsibilities of being an Olympic medalist in the past few weeks. First and foremost, I’ve found that people want to congratulate me. People are sincerely happy for me and proud of my accomplishments and this makes me deeply happy and terribly embarrassed. It’s is something I really do find hard. I’m shy and at times I feel like i don’t deserve it. Someone close to me tore a bit of a strip off me and told me I had better learn to deal with it. They said that because a lot of those people have been a part of my journey the least I can do is graciously accept a thanks, even if I feel like i owe them the thanks. What follows is a rundown of some of the thoughts that have come to me since the Olympics and some of the changes that I am being forced to make.
One big thing that I’ve noticed is peoples’ attraction to the medal. Everyone wants to touch an Olympic medal. At our Canoe Kayak National Championships two weeks ago I wasn’t sure whether or not I should bring my medal to the regatta. I was worried people would think I was showing off or whatever. I did bring it, I was proud and rightly so, and I knew certain people would want to see it. It turned out that lots of people wanted to see it, in fact almost everyone i spoke to did. I, of course, obliged and was more than happy to show people. I think what surprised me most was that it seemed like people have a type of respect for the medal itself and what it symbolizes. They touch it very gently and are very careful with it. It was funny to me that people are always surprised at the way I handle it. I tend to pass it around with relative abandon. If it was solid metal without a piece of jade in it I would be much more free about it. My only fear with it is that it will get dropped and the jade will break…that would suck. The medal to me is nothing more than a symbol, and nice looking one, of what I know and feel internally, but I don’t feel a need to be very wary with it.
What I think I’ve only just begun to understand is that those people who handle it with a type of reverence do so because they understand what it symbolizes better than I do. They understand what it is really made out of, they can look at it with a level of objectivity that I can’t. They see it for what it is, a symbol of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I saw it as a neat prize, nothing more than a trophy. What I know now is that the best part about it is that I can use it to inspire people.
I feel like it is a tool now; after four days at Nationals and a couple of hundred hands my medal has some wear. The ribbon is frayed and the bronze has been scuffed and shined on its raised parts. At the end of the week someone remarked that I should be taking better care of it, as they fingered it. Thats when the thoughts you have read came to me. I finally realized at that point what a gift I had been given, that it is so much more than a trophy. More of a talisman with a power to (maybe if I’m very lucky), change a life or two.