October 31, 2010.
"Every time I'm on ABC, I crash." Vinko Bogataj
Do you recall the television sports series called ABC's Wide World of Sports? If you do, you undoubtedly recall the start of the show. With a rolling montage of sports clips and a stirring, brassy musical composition acting as a backdrop, sports journalist Jim McKay's would say:
"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport; the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat."
Just as McKay utters the words agony of defeat, video footage of Yugoslavian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj taking a horrific tumble in a 1970 ski flying competition is shown. Bogataj, coming down the jumping ramp at a fairly high rate of speed, loses control and then tumbles and flips wildly. He ends up crashing through a retaining fence before finally grinding to a halt.
It's a grizzly scene.
Had a film crew not been on hand to record the event, this spectacular failure would have likely gone unnoticed. After all, skiers crash and wipe out all of the time. But as fate would have it that day, they were there - and the crash became the centerpiece of Wide World's 'agony of defeat' for decades.
"Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold you head high, look it squarely in eye and say, I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me." Ann Landers
Luckily, as bad as the crash looks (and trust me, it looks B-A-D), Bogataj only suffered a mild concussion. Over time, his agony moment actually garnered him a kind of celebrity status. The sympathetic pain of watching Bogataj wipe out week after week ultimately transformed the largely unheralded ski jumper into an affectionate icon for bad luck and misfortune.
It's interesting that throughout the Wide World's storied history, a number of clips were used during 'the thrill of victory' segment of the show's introduction. These included imagery of athletes celebrating Super Bowl, Olympic or World Cup victories. But the agony of defeat portion never changed: it was always Bogataj crashing and ending up in a heap.
"The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart." Robert Green Ingersoll
Just like every ski jumper at that day's competition, he had trained for the moment. And he was out there competing - giving it his very best effort. Midway down his third jump of the day, with the snow really coming down, Bogataj realized that the conditions had made the ramp too fast. So he attempted to lower his center of gravity. He tried to stop his jump. He tried to stave off his agony of defeat, but couldn't. He lost his balance. And he crashed.
'm sure Vinko wished his jump had gone off without a hitch. That he could have safely landed instead of careening off of the ramp. But fate didn't happen that way. He crashed. It was caught on camera. And his failure was subsequently put on worldwide display, witnessed by millions upoof viewers every week for years.
Yet, even though he was defined by the moment, he never allowed that moment to define him.
He returned to ski jumping the next year and later became a ski instructor, painter and equipment operator. In 1991, after he retired to private life in Slovenia, Bogataj was asked to attend the 30th anniversary celebration of the Wide World of Sports. While in attendance, he was stunned when some of the worlds most accomplished athletes asked him for HIS autograph.
Imagine that. His agony of defeat moment had actually made him famous.
"To be defeated and yet not surrender, this is victory." Jozef Pilsudski
How about you, what kind of agony of defeat are you carrying around with you. What kind of emotional scars have yet to heal? Are you allowing your previous mistakes and missteps to define you?
Regardless of how bad your prior blunders and gaffes may be, you can overcome them. You can rise above them. You can conquer them and move forward as long as you never permit them to become you.
The next time you crash, pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Shake out the cobwebs. And get back in the game. Fix what went wrong. And make it right. When you refuse to allow any mistake, misstep or miscalculation to get the better of you, you can DEFEAT your agony of defeat.
The Bottom Line: You CAN overcome defeat.
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