This is an interesting topic because as a father of two great kids I have noticed the way they explore and it has made me reflect a great deal about how I grew up as a kid. Much of my time between the ages of 6 and 16 was spent doing a lot of riding my bike and climbing trees. It is still very clear for me one of the days that I was trying to learn how to ride with no hands and yes before I learnt the skill I meet with some grief. It was in a friend’s street that started with a cool hill that curved to the left before flattening out in front of his house. The roads surface was pretty harsh, but as we were not really aloud beyond the street by ourselves it meant that much of our biking exploits had to be done on and around this street.
On this particular day I was building my confidence with each run down the hill and each time playing around with what I thought at the time were extreme hand positions. Until I finally had the courage to take both hands off the bars and coasted with a great sense of freedom and bravado. Due to the curve in the street it meant that I couldn’t keep my hands off for long and as I grabbed the handlebars again a huge burst of excitement leaped through my body. I had done it I thought and with this new world open to me I turned and headed back up the hill for more of the excitement.
This was when it all when wrong and as I went to let go of the bars something strange happen and what exactly it was that made me panic I am not sure, but before I knew it the bike developed a mind of it’s own. I tried to reach for the bars to regain control, but no, it was all too late. I even tried to put my feet out and with in that moment I found myself being thrown forward across to the right side of the handlebars. The reason for this being so vivid was that I became hooked over the right hand grip and the bike seemed like it wasn’t going to let me go. I was wishing for it to all end, but for whatever reason I was stuck between to extreme sensations. One that I had been enjoying, one that involved the freedom of riding my bike with no hands and the other extreme being the punishing crunch, slide and dragging experience I was eventually going to have. Finally it came and the impact was incredible. With all the usual grazes on the knees, elbows, it was the crack to the top of my head that really shocked me. The very top of my head had opened on impact and as I lay on the harsh bitumen surface stunned I found this strange thought entered my mind. That was scary, but cool.
So today when I watched my daughter riding her bike I notice how every now and then things get out of her control and the look on her face reminds me of what it was like when I was learning to ride. The interesting thing is that that sensation of being frightened and excited is very similar to competing in a rowing event. Not just any event but an event that really means something to you. It used to occur to me at most competitions we I was first starting out. In fact I think it was the reason why I kept going back for more. Before the race during the moments building up I find that same sense of fear and excitement swinging back and forth with in me. __That bike riding experience was amazing, I did need stitches and I am sure I cried, but it’s an experience that exposed me to the reality of a significant event in my early life. What’s amazing is how similar the sensation has been time and time again for me during other significant events in my life since. The Olympics is no different it is just that I have learnt not to come off now, but the sensation of fear and excitement are all still there. This is what I see in my daughters face; as she takes on new and interesting challenges mean something significant to her. We must all have the spirit to live with the fear and excitement and to still go forward and face our challenges in whatever form.