Zig Zags: A World Championships Recap

“The shortest distance to your destination is a straight line, but the fastest way to get there will involve many zigzags.”– Brad Hudson, Elite Marathon Performance Coach

One of my friends sent me this quote after our fourth place finish in the semifinal race of the women’s double at the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea. It didn’t say “you did your best” or “you’ll get it next time.” I didn’t need to hear that. What was screaming inside my head was something along the (PG rated) lines of  “Well, that sucked and wasn’t what you wanted. So what are you going to do about it?”

It was a terrible race and in result we had not advanced to the A Final. To say we were disappointed is a severe understatement. Devastated? Getting closer. Part of me wishes I could say we had caught a crab off the start or a digger in the last 250 meters after having led the race the entire time; but the reality of it was that we just had an entirely bad race. We’ve all been in that place at some point in our athletic, academic, or professional careers where your performance–good or bad–just wasn’t enough. You were beat by someone who was better than you on that day.

Women's Double post B Final Win and 7th place overall finish. (Ellen Tomek, Meghan O'Leary; photo courtesy of Curtis Jordan).
Women’s Double post B Final Win and 7th place overall finish. (Ellen Tomek, Meghan O’Leary; photo courtesy of Curtis Jordan).

The great thing about sport is that for every failure or loss, there is an opportunity for redemption. Our B Final race (click to watch race video HERE) was finally a race we could be proud of. Nobody wants to be in the B Final, but if you find yourself there you better show up like it’s the Olympics. Ellen and I finally raced our race, posting a solid time in headwind conditions that would’ve put us in contention for a possible bronze medal in the A Final. We executed our race plan and finished strong, dominating the field in a fashion that proved we belonged with those top finishing crews.

While I would much rather have come home with a medal and feeling as though we had our best regatta, coming home with a few lessons learned and the bitter taste of dissatisfaction is a powerful thing. If you allow it, an experience like that can be a huge blow to your confidence, casting a dark shadow of self-doubt and self-loathing. But if you refuse to drown in your own sulking, recognizing the takeaways from a less than positive experience will end up taking you even further than you envisioned going before.

And so after a couple of weeks of rest and recharging, it’s back to work and preparing for the 2014 season. The bitter taste of defeat and disappointment still rears its ugly head every so often, but only to drive me to work that much harder to make sure that next year is different.

Every Day Counts.

3 thoughts on “Zig Zags: A World Championships Recap

  1. Hey Meghan – this is such a poignant post -thanks for having the courage to post it up.
    Would you consider asking your coach to review using the Rowperfect joined together so you two could practice aligning your force curves in practice for next year? It was what the New Zealand girls double trained on…..
    We would love to assist you in making that A final and a medal position.


  2. Gene

    Hi Meghan,
    Sorry to read of your disappointment. So let me share with you one of my favorite quotations. It is from John Wooden and it resides at my desk every day to remind me: “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one”.
    Rest. Recharge. Get back at it for next year.

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