Friday, August 17, 2012

Final 2012 Swish-Whack, Take That! Awards

I thought the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards were done for 2012. But after I submitted last week's column, the final weekend of the Olympics began. And I saw some Swish-Wackiness that made me realize it ain't over until the last racer crosses the finish line.

The first SWTT goes to American BMX racer, Alise Post, racing in her first Olympics. During the semi-finals, on the final rhythm hills — the small hills the racers take two at a time — Post landed on her bike wrong, sailed over the handlebars, and planted her face and helmet into the up-slope of one of the jumps.

"Honestly, I couldn't tell you what happened," she told the Washington Post. "It's really a blur. I'm just glad, I guess, that I'm physically OK."

Post may have had the sense knocked out of her in the crash, but it also knocked out the quit. She was so dazed, she tried to get on her bike, fighting the two Olympic officials who tried to help her off the track.

Once she realized she couldn't ride, she began crawling toward the finish line, rose to her feet, and staggered toward the finish line. One official put his arm around her for support, and Post walked the rest of the race, without her bike, barely aware of what was going on.

The second Swish-Whack, Take That! goes to South African runner, Oscar "The Blade Runner" Pistorius, the double amputee runner with carbon fiber blades for legs. Pistorius raced in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics, receiving four golds and a bronze.

There was some controversy over whether Pistorius should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, because people thought he would have an unfair advantage over the non-disabled athletes.

In other words, it's not a disadvantage when he's in the Paralympics, but when he's competing in the regular Olympics, it's unfair.

Here's how non-advantageous the blades are: Pistorius' fastest time ever for 400 meters is 45.44. The world record is 43.18, set by American Michael Johnson in 1999. Last week, Manteo Mitchell ran a 46.1 on a broken leg. If Pistorius had an advantage, he would have broken the world record already, or at least been more than .7 seconds faster than a guy who broke his leg during a race.

Pistorius was allowed to run, and anchored his South African team in the 4x400m relay final. They came in last, nearly seven seconds behind gold medal winners, Bahamas. But the fact that he ran impressed me deeply.

So, in honor of his groundbreaking achievement and lion's heart, I'm renaming Oscar's Swish-Whack, Take That! the Swish-Swish-Swish-Swish! award.

Compare these two accomplishments to American Morgan Uceny, from Plymouth, Indiana, who was tripped in the final lap of the 1500m final race, and ended up face down on the track. Uceny was understandably distraught. She had also tripped during the 2011 World Championships, where she had also been a gold medal favorite.

But Uceny never got up. She sobbed on the track for several minutes, even after the race ended. She had to be helped off the track, where she sat and cried some more, before quietly slipping away unnoticed.

I can understand Uceny's anguish. I have been in a place where lifelong dreams crashed because of one tiny misstep. So I'm not saying she shouldn't have been devastated. I've been there, and it's awful.

So much I wanted her to stand up. I wanted her to show the world that Americans don't quit, that Hoosiers don't quit, even when we lose. We get up, we run, we walk, we stagger, we drag ourselves to the finish line.

These Olympic games have featured some exciting and inspiring stories of people who have an indomitable spirit.

Like Hamadou Djibo Issaka of Niger, the gardener turned rower, who was so new to the sport, he couldn't even row in a straight line. Or 400 meter swimmer Jennet Saryyeva of Turkmenistan who finished 35th out of 35 swimmers, almost a minute behind 34th place, and still set her national record. Or Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, who injured himself during a 110 meter heat, and hopped along the side of the track on one foot to finish his race, stopping to kiss the last hurdle, and then had his hand raised in victory by Balazs Baji, a Hungarian hurdler.

These athletes are the inspiring stories of the Olympics. They got up, they kept going, kept kicking, kept hopping. They finished.

So the athletes who finished dead last, but never quit, get the biggest, shiniest Swish-Whack, Take That! of 2012.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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