The dirt beneath my feet is compacted. There are a few pebbles that don’t belong. They scratch at the soles of my track shoes as I work to flick them out of the way. I’ll not permit any imperfection from interfering with my goal. It’s so much more than a number. 8.95 meters. It is the holy grail for long jumpers and I am poised to engrave my name into those record books with my final effort of this competition.
The wind is at my back. The crowd is energized with anticipation. I shake out my calf muscles and swivel my head back and forth to clear the mental cobwebs before beginning my approach for takeoff. I envision a jet fighter accelerating quickly as it is catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier. That’s how I have always done it in the past, prepared for accomplishing the unthinkable, used vivid imagery to picture impossibility becoming my new reality.
I begin to trot before working up to a sprint as I reach the white demarcation that serves as the threshold between what has been in the past and what will be in the future. Planting my left foot, I extend my right foot towards the sky at an optimum angle. Not the pristine takeoff I’d been hoping for, but I’m determined. I’m certain, this will be my moment.
I arrange my limbs in a perfectly aerodynamic form. A gentle nudge from the whisper of a breeze blows from behind me. Thank you, I whisper in my thoughts as I approach the spot in the sand that I have imprinted in my mind. There is no special denotation showing where I need to arrive, I just know. Reaching my azimuth, I begin a descent back to earth, my short-lived flight now cleared for landing. I extend my toes and fingers out towards the horizon, watching that coveted spot in the sand pass beneath me.
With a thud, my shoes sink into the sand. I exhale a victorious breath. The measuring tape is extended, but I already know the results. 8.96 meters, a new world record. The crowd erupts in appreciation of my Herculean accomplishment. I’ve done it. I’ve overcome my personal demons. I’ve prevailed against all odds to win the gold medal hanging around my neck. The smile on my face couldn’t be any prouder, even if in reality, I haven’t won a single thing.
The supporting cast of the theatrical production joins me on stage as the final act is completed. The audience provides a standing ovation for my performance. My eyes lock on those of a young boy seated in a wheelchair at the end of the third row, clapping with an enthusiasm that is more infectious and rewarding than the imitation reproduction hanging around my neck.
It’s then that I realize that winning a medal may be the ultimate goal for some. But, for me, inspiring others to reach beyond their personal limits, now that is pure gold.