This is a subject I love talking to the kids about when I’m invited to speak at school events and sport’s awards evenings (yes it happens) etc. I’ve done my best to distil my usually ad-libbed waffle into a coherent piece of writing that I hope provides you with interesting and useful insights.
Getting over fear yielded medals for these athletes. Igls, Innsbruck was the scene of my first ever bobsleigh experience where, because it scared the shit out of me, I considered quitting after my first run. 3 years later, I took a 2-man GB record silver medal with Brad Hall.
Be Afraid, Darwin Said So. Evolution And That.
At times, we all avoid the stuff that scares us. That’s pretty normal. We’ve evolved with a fear response to those things we perceive as dangerous. Charles Darwin concluded that we evolved this response to survive. He’s on the British £10 note, so he’s probably not far off the mark.
Our smarter ancestors who decided not to play baseball with venomous snakes or cliff dive onto solid ground passed on their survival instincts and thus we evolved to feel rational responses to perceived danger.
The context I’m going to discuss is less through the lens of genuine life or death examples like the silly ones above, however.
I’m going to talk about it from a, ‘what the hell am I going to do with my life’, or ‘why am I back at the top of bobsleigh track’, sort of example.
This, for many of us, can still be every bit as paralysing as a Jeep Wrangler barrel-rolling towards our picnic.
Good for you, I’m not. Bobsleigh taught me that.
For the longest time this sport scared me. Genuinely. Anyone that says the sport doesn’t scare them, even occasionally, is either heavily experienced with no nerve-endings left, Friedrich is their pilot, they haven’t slid Whistler or they’re lying.
I don’t judge anyone who comes into this sport and admits they’re frightened. I would much prefer knowing where my teammate’s head is at so I can help to reassure them.
This being a preferred alternative to them ‘sandbagging’ (bobsleigh term for a poor push performance), or acting negatively because they feel anxious and alone with their fears.
Having said all that, I am now at a stage where I’m used to the process and the bump and smash.
I’m happy to be thrown in as the ‘potato sack’, to take the big hits whilst the pilots relearn an old track or get to grips with one they’ve not been to before.
I used to do this anyway - I just wasn’t happy about it.
Now I accept that this is all a part of this particular game.
But when I started, the sport genuinely frightened me.
Largely because I had no frame of reference for what might happen if we crashed. I was balancing an already precarious sprinting career - what if I broke my leg? What if I broke something else?
The whole point of getting into bobsleigh initially was to give me a new focus for the winter, some confidence representing my country again and a bit of a turbo-boost back into sprinting for the summer.
In the end, ironically, it was sprinting that always injured me. Bobsleigh beats the shit out of you, but it’s different.
Ok, Bring It Back.
So yes, fear.
It always makes me laugh, the marketing campaigns and the best-intentioned coaches and parents who tell their charges to ‘be fearless’.
It rolls off the tongue I guess and sounds punchy and inspirational. There was even that brand who capitalised on this mentality, ‘No Fear’ (are they still around? Sweet skater belts.)
But when you dig into it a little bit, where’s the reward in being fearless?
There’s nothing impressive in doing the things that don’t frighten us. Emptying the dishwasher and wiping your arse, (for most of us), are not Insta-worthy achievements to show the world.
To feel fear, to be genuinely frightened of the task ahead requires one separating force.
Still Innsbruck I think, maybe La Plagne. Either way this is a typical bobsledders view - not bad
Courage. Mut. Drosme. 勇気. мужество. 勇气.
To feel fear and approach the insurmountable hurdle, to dig deep and get over it, requires bravery. You have to be brave to get things done in this world.
We’re all sitting at home right now struggling to comprehend the future. For one, what the hell is it going to look like?
Plus all those goals we had in mind for the year 2020 (it’s gonna be my year, ‘yaas queen’ and all that), are on hold.