Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thomas Ulsrud, 2P4H, and the pursuit of excellence.



I was very torn about the Olympics. I have huge issues about how LGBT people are being treated in Russia, yet I also wanted Thomas Ulsrud (I've written about him here) to win a gold medal and watch him do it. So I made a deal with myself. I would only watch curling. I do love the spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies but I refused to watch China's and I had no problem missing these as well.

Most of the matches I wanted were only available by internet stream anyway so I wasn't feeding the corporate machine - too much.

It was a rough go. There were times I didn't understand why he was calling the shots he did, but this happens when you're in love with a high-risk, high-reward player. I watched him lose some tough matches, nothing more heartbreaking then watching him lose the the tie-breaker to get the final playoff spot on the final rock. He slumped against the boards in shock after congratulating the victors. You could tell the team was devastated.






Later on in the day he did this interview. I don't expect you to speak Norwegian,  so I'll give you the highlights.He is thinking about quitting as his competitors now get to curl full time while his team has to balance practicing with working full-time. The funding for their international competitions the last few years has been coming out of his own pocket.Without sponsorship to allow them to devote their time to the game, they will no longer be able to compete.

This didn't surprise me. You could see the decline in their results since the last Olympics and the rise of dedicated curlers after Canada was so successful in turning a men's curling team professional in advance of the Vancouver Olympics. How hard must it be to watch others surpass you, when you know you can match them if you had the same resources.

I'm reminded of 2 Pianos 4 Hands. The play (one of the most successful ever produced in Canada) concerns two boys who have dreams of being concert pianists. We see their trials and tribulations as they grow up. One of the boys is told by his father early on he's only allowed to rehearse an hour a day because the father wishes to see him live a normal boyhood. Near the end of the play, the boy auditions to get into a conservatory program. He is reamed out by the examiner for not having put in nearly enough work as the people he's competing against. This was heartbreaking to watch and has stayed with me. To have the desire and not the resources is something I'm familiar with.

I now see this with Thomas and his team. For four years the dream had been to return to the Olympics and claim the medal that they came so close to having. And now that dream is drifting away because they don't have the opportunity to be the best they can be. It saddens me, the thought they could retire, because I love to watch them play and they've done so much to popularize the sport. 

But I totally understand and respect the choice.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

It's wonderful to feel the love, sensitivity... which you wrote this post. That was the first time that a curling game made me cry but you helped me to feel better. Since that day you're an important person to me. I think Thomas is a fighter. He loves his sport and his team. I've never seen anyone play with so much confidence in himself and his team. He believes in what he does. If curling loses him because of money will be a great injustice

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