That’s the first thing I said to my after failing to defend my national title this past weekend at the Canadian track and field championships in Edmonton. What I meant by ‘it’, in that moment, was my signature dramatic, super clutch, put-it-all-together-on-the-final attempt-and-come-out-on-top sort of finish. The conclusion that I always seem to pull off when it matters. I didn’t do it.
I should start at the beginning. I went into the national championships hoping for a five-peat. I hoped to earn my fifth consecutive national title in triple jump. More than anything however, I hoped to use the meet as a platform to put some big jumps out there and boost my confidence before competing at the Pan Am Games in a mere two weeks. While at nationals in the past years my confidence has been shaky, I flew to Edmonton knowing that I am on the brink of some monstrous jumps. I envisioned the way that it would feel getting out of the pit and seeing just how far into the sand I managed to hurl my body. I knew I was ready. I knew it was going to happen.
But – then it didn’t. The Universe had a different plan for me that day. After some gusty winds that were making it difficult to get a legal jump in, standing on the runway for my final attempt I wasn’t even in a medal position. Here I was, faulting myself through round after round of jumps, with only one shot left to defend my title.
Looking back, the craziest aspect of the whole circumstance was that in that moment – standing on the runway for my final attempt, knowing what an absolute disaster of a competition I was having – I did not feel nervous. So many times before, I had been in that situation and I did what I needed to do. “This is how I operate! These are the circumstances I thrive in! I am clutch Caro and this where my greatness shines! I can do this damnit!” That is what was going through my head. (Okay, to be completely truthful, for a more accurate representation throw the f-word between every other word in that quotation and THAT’s what was going through my head). I was pumped and ready to go, yet completely calm at the same time. My confidence did not waver - not for a second.
As soon as my butt hit the sand, I knew it wasn’t enough. It was finally a legal jump, but it wasn’t far enough to snag the gold. I stared at my in-print in the perfectly raked pit for a second, and then looked at my coach, and then back at the in-print. I had failed.
For the rest of the evening, I felt completely numb. Shocked. It wasn’t that I lost, but more so the way in which I didn’t win. I didn’t perform when I needed to. I am self-conscious about many of my athlete-related traits and qualities; my smaller size, my less-than-remarkable speed, my at time questionable technique - but my killer-instinct and ability step up when it matters is never something I have doubted. Suddenly, I was left questioning even that, and that’s what absolutely killed me.
Obviously nobody likes to lose, and obviously I wish I was writing this post about a more favourable outcome from this past weekend. But I know this experience has value. Things don’t always go exactly the way you want them to, and although it sucks in the moment, all you can do is believe it happened for a reason, pick yourself up, and keep going. Immediately my dad told me, “don’t you dare think anything less of yourself because of this.” Being an athlete is crazy. It takes so many brilliant performances to build your confidence up, but only a single sub-par one to bring it crashing down. I know better than to allow that – especially keeping in mind what lies ahead.
I look forward to building on and learning from this weekends experience, and doing my friends, family, and country proud at the Pan Am Games.
In conclusions, I wanted to take this opportunity to give a huge congratulations to the 2015 national triple jump champion, my good friend Julia Wallace on her incredible performance in Edmonton, as well as my teammate and fellow medallist Alicia Smith. I am without a doubt honoured to earn a silver medal among competitors of their calibre. Canada now has three triple jumpers jumping thirteen meters – more than it has had at once in quite some time. It is an exciting time for our event, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!