Every once in a while I’ve hit the bowling lanes with some friends and every once in a while comes my personal triumph – breaking 100.
Every once in a while I throw on my figure skates and hit an open skate and enjoy a personal triumph – not tripping myself up with the toe-pick as I skate the only speed I know (slow) in the only direction I’ve mastered (forward).
And yet it doesn’t matter that neither bowling nor figure skating is my “sport.”
This week, they provide me with some great inspiration.
Kelly Kulick, a 32-year-old originally from New Jersey, became the first woman to win a Professional Bowler’s Association title, taking one of the tour’s majors no less, the Tour of Champions in Las Vegas.
“I believe this can only mean bigger and better things for the sport,” Kulick said in an article in the Detroit Free Press. “If in any way this can be boost for women’s sports and bowling, I’m willing to do my part. I feel like I’m on a magic carpet ride right now and I want to keep riding it higher and higher.”
What is so refreshing is her perspective. She understands that any time you have a “first woman” to do something in the world of sports, it’s a big deal. But she can embrace the historic moment and accompanying role model status in women’s sports without playing up the gender card. It’s a triumph, but also a triumph for her sport, one which gets little to no recognition aside from some clever ESPN promos. She sees the whole picture and the shades of gray that add tone and depth to the masterpiece.
Then came the U.S. national figure skating title for Rachael Flatt.
In her column in USA Today, Christine Brennan discusses Flatt as the unlikelychampion. She is outside the box of what we think a champion figure skater looks like.
“Figure skater Rachel Flatt has heard the adjectives people use to describe her – steady, solid, athletic, reliable – and knows they aren’t always meant as a compliment,” Brennan wrote. “The words reserved for the balletic and elegant Sasha Cohen, for instance, or the expressive and delightful Mirai Nagasu are not used for her.”
Flatt does not fit the stereotypical image of a figure skater as a petite and flexible athlete. She instead is powerful, landing jump combinations others could only dream of attempting. She is consistent in those jumps, which earns her plenty of points in the new scoring system of the sport.
But most moving in the piece was a quote from legend Dorthy Hamill who has become a mentor to Flatt.
“I said ‘Get the image of being a tiny bird out of your head,'” Hamill said. “You are an amazing athlete and you have to build on your strengths. You can’t wish and hope and pray for something that you don’t have.”
And that is the great lesson from Kulick and Flatt – playing to your strengths and being authentic to who you are. It’s a great example of the power of authenticity, of embracing who you are, what you do and where you are.
That’s when magic can happen.