Oftentimes, when I talk about perseverance, discipline, the ability to overcome adversity or setting goals, I give as an example the stories of great athletes who have made history.
However, there are people who, without reaching the top in their sport or in their professions, inspire me as much or more than those super-champions.
One of them is my father, who just turned 64 today. He has always been a canoeist, although when he was young he rowed. Thanks to his passion for canoeing I was introduced to this wonderful sport that continues to captivate me.
Although he is a canoeist at heart, he hasn’t been out on the water for a long time. The reason is that four years ago he was diagnosed with a chronic hematological disease. So, he has to take medication for the rest of his life to keep things under control.
He has always faced life with great enthusiasm and motivation. The moment he was given that bad news, he set the goal to improve his physical condition and began to train on his kayak. However, he realized that the medication or his illness, or a combination of both, caused him to lose his balance and he capsized on several occasions, with the risk that this entails.
If you know him, you will know that he loved to bathe in cold water. You could see him swimming daily on La Concha Beach in San Sebastián. I still remember getting messages from friends from all around Spain telling me that they saw my father on TV coming out of the water when it snowed on the beach.
These dizziness forced him to have to abandon both hobbies, but he found a sport that did adapt to this new vital circumstance: indoor rowing.
He bought a machine and, without thinking twice, began to train and set goals. The first, to break the Spanish record in the 60-64 category. That year he was going to turn 60, so he would be one of the young ones in the category.
I remember that the whole family, my mother, my wife, my children, my sister and her family, went to his first competition in Getxo on his birthday, exactly 4 years ago today, on December 1, 2018. Although he had been rowing seriously for a few months, he really wanted to break a record that had not been broken for years. The times he was doing suggested that he could so it.
However, as I often tell the athletes I work with, in my classes or at conferences:
You don’t choose the rocks on the road, but you can choose your attitude to overcome them.
You can’t control that someone else does better that day, but you can control giving your best.
And that is what happened. He broke his personal record and the Spanish one too, but there was another rower who beat him and who, logically, set the official record.
A year later, we were back at the same event. He had prepared better and his marks indicated that he was going to be able to do it. However, once again, even beating his own personal best and the Spanish record, there were two other rowers who beat him.
Instead of getting discouraged and complaining that the illness and the medication that he has to take continuously will probably affect his performance, he got up again and went after his goal.
Months later, he finally managed to beat that Spanish record and qualify for the Indoor World Championship, where he was 7th in his category.
Two weeks ago, at the Spanish Indoor Rowing Championship he came in second position in the Masters category, aged 35 and over.
Now, his goal is the European Championships that will be held in Paris at the beginning of 2023. This morning we caught him in the gym at Orio´s Arraunetxe rowing and lifting weights. I didn’t know about this fact but for 20 years he did not lift weights and he only started again a few months ago!
There are people who, even if they don’t win Olympic medals, Grand Slams, or World Cups, can inspire us even more than the greatest champions because they are people like you and I who decide to face adversity and the challenges that life throws at them with a smile and the courage to fight.
What defines us is not how we fall but how we get up.
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