Most of us watched the women’s skiing events during the Winter Olympics to see the famous athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Maria Reisch try to medal. On Friday, I turned to the women’s slalom, hoping to catch a glimpse of Vonn. Instead, I saw a racer who has stuck with me for the last few days.
Her name is Sarah Schleper, and she roars before each race. See for yourself:
Schleper, is 32 and a four-time Olympian, but she’s never medaled. She’s made it to the world championships, but only won once. She is one of those athletes who always shows up and fights it out, but will never get the kind of recognition that a skier like Vonn has. Her presence at the 2010 Olympics was by no means guaranteed, either. In 2007, she missed the entire season due to a torn ACL. In 2008, she took the season off for the birth of her son, Lasse. The amount of determination and drive it must have taken to get back into Olympic-qualifying form – not only as a formerly injured athlete, but also as a young mother – is incredible.
Her story, itself, is touching, but it was Schleper's roar that had the most impact on me. Immediately before Sarah starts each race, she lets out that loud, uninhibited scream. A lion, or a cheetah roar, which gets her in the right mindset for each race. I’ve seen hundreds of pre-event rituals, but never one like this. It was a powerful statement from a female athlete, an action that both projects and also summons confidence.
I think that the concept of the “lion roar” can be applied to any sort of race or challenge that we face as athletes. If you want to win or succeed, you have to put it all out there, unabashedly. No matter what starting line you find yourself on – don’t ever apologize for your presence among your fellow competitors. If you don’t feel like you have the “right” to be standing with them at the beginning, then you’ll never beat them to the finish. Let out your roar, whether quiet or loud, and use what’s inside of you to carry you through.