At the horse show last weekend a woman came up to me and introduced herself. She was also competing at the show and told me how much she enjoyed my blog as she could read the posts and say “Yes, I’ve felt like that.” She told me I was “inspirational”. I was so happy to hear this from her. But it reminded me that in 2016 during the Paralympics I had read of some para-athletes who were not happy being “inspirational”.
At the time I read some articles about this. It seemed that the para-athletes wanted to be just regarded as ordinary athletes. I couldn’t understand it. Athletes, able bodied or parallel who make it to the Olympics are not “ordinary”. All of them have sacrificed and slogged through the hours of training, setbacks, and challenges. These are all super athletes even if they never stand on a podium. To me they are all inspirational.
Inspirational. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word as “making you feel hopeful or encouraged.” That is exactly how para athletes make me feel. That is also how all top athletes make me feel. To watch someone who is at the top of their game excelling in their sport is inspiring.
But…..is there a responsibility that goes with being inspirational? Do these athletes have to behave better than the rest of us? Do their lives have to be judged by higher standards? If we put them up on the “inspirational” pedestal does that impose a weight or responsibility some do not want to bear?
I think that for those who are famous and in the public eye it is a huge responsibility. And what happens when they fall from grace? Well look at Lance Armstrong. I thought he was inspirational. He was a cancer survivor. I am a cancer survivor. If he could succeed as he did there was hope for all of us. Then we all found out he was a cheat and a liar. Boom! Down from the pedestal and smack onto the hard ground of reality.
But for others they can use their inspirational qualities to help others. Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Charlotte Dujardin, and many other Olympic athletes who have chosen to support causes dear to their hearts and this has encouraged others to join them.
Yes, it is a responsibility to be inspirational. I am not famous and so for me it is not a burden. If someone who is diagnosed with cancer can read my blog and believe they can survive as I have…..great! If someone can read my blog and know that a 69 year old can ride and compete and that encourages them to carry on riding…great! If anything about my life can help someone else to feel better or feel more hopeful….great!
So those paralympians will just have to man-up and woman-up to accept the mantle of “inspirational” athletes. They certainly inspire me! And remember this….
It is never too late to be what you might have been.—-George Elliot