Editor's Note: Christie Gordon is a Canadian 100 meter hurdler. She has represented her country on the International stage three times and continues to pursue her dream, to compete in the Olympic Games
More Than Meets The Eye
Have you ever looked to the other side of the court, field, or to the lanes beside you and think ‘wow, they look good.’ We size up competition with sometimes no other information than how they look. I’ve been guilty of this! I am a track and field athlete and my event is the 100m hurdles. I have never had someone guess my event correctly. I am one of the shortest hurdlers, just reaching 5’3” and I hover around 115-120 lbs. My nickname in college was “mini,” not exactly the nickname that screams intimidation. But as I have learned over the years and something some of my competitors have learned, there is more than meets the eye.
It was 2011 and I was at my first international competition, World University Games in Shenzhen, China. There were thousands of athletes from all over the world and let me tell you they all looked fast, I guess that’s why they were all there! There were a few moments when I would look around the warm-up track and the small quiet voice of doubt would creep in, and I wonder if I belonged there with everyone else. As I settled in to my practices, that voice was silenced once again and I remembered why I was chosen for the team. I did belong there. I had my last practice the day before my race, I was feeling good and I was ready to step on the track and compete.
A few of us boarded the bus from the warm-up track back to the athlete village and as we were traveling back a coach from another country struck up a conversation with me. He asked me what event I did and when I responded with 100m hurdles the coach laughed, looked me up and down and said no, no you can’t, you can’t do that. This coach proceeded to tell me how I didn’t look big enough, strong enough and wasn’t fast enough to run with the elite hurdlers. This coach has never met me. He didn’t know my previous times. He didn’t know anything about me. He felt it was his duty though to fill me in on my own ability or lack thereof. Then there was that quiet voice again, “Is he right? Maybe I really don’t belong here, he looks like he knows what he is talking about, I mean he is a coach... and I’m just an athlete after all."
This coach had me questioning my own ability and my training all based on what I looked like and what he thought a hurdler should look like. Well what does he know? He couldn’t see my motivation. He couldn’t see my dedication. He couldn’t see my passion and heart for the sport. Those will take an athlete much farther than a certain stature ever will. Who was he to limit my ability? I think the more important question here is why was I listening to him? I was guilty of the same thing, though. I believed him, if only for a short time, based on what? The fact that he had on a fancy jacket from another country… was a coach at the University games... I knew nothing about his background, athletes he has coached or his ability as a coach.
I know I surprised him the next day and the day after that when I finished 9th overall. He didn’t expect much of anything out of me. And you know what? I am just fine with that. He can continue to expect little out of me, my competitors can continue to expect little out of me, and I will continue to surprise people. Now when I go to meets, instead of seeing a girl and thinking whoa, she must be fast. I think about all the hard work my coach and therapist have put in. I think about all the time and energy I have spent preparing for this race. I think about the things I am able to do well and not worry about anyone else. Because what I love about track and field is in the end it’s only about what lies between those two white lines. Myself.