The Olympics is not just about medals. Sometimes the most compelling and emotional narratives are provided by athletes who suffer terrible disappointment or come back from great hardship. These women should inspire us all.
The Courage of Rowan Cheshire
If it seems almost irrelevant that Cheshire finished 7th in the ski halfpipe final at Pyeongchang 2018, that is because the real triumph for the athlete was simply making it to the Winter Olympics in one piece.
The skier from Stoke has demonstrated incredible bravery to continue competing after a series of terrifying injuries marred the early part of her career.
Cheshire’s troubles began in Sochi 2014, as her first experience of the Olympics ended before it began when she fell on her face during training and knocked herself out. That crash left her with concussion and a broken nose and she withdrew from her event.
If that was not already bad enough, Cheshire, 22, suffered another two serious head injuries in the next 18 months which caused migraines and dizziness and left her mentally shot and scared to compete.
The skier needed help from psychologists. As she told The Telegraph, ‘I felt physically fine, but the mental side of it was difficult – the anxiety. I did not want to leave the house by myself, so my mum had to come to appointments with me. Even when that wore off I would get emotional at things I did not want to get emotional at because they were really little. That was a big thing to get over, and it did take quite a few months.’
After all the hardship, Cheshire was overwhelmed to reach the ski halfpipe final at Pyeongchang 2018. She told The Evening Standard: ‘After everything, it feels amazing to reach the final,’ she said. ‘There were a lot of emotions there today after what happened four years ago. I’ve been injured for most of the last four years. I’m so happy; I can relax a bit now.’
Cursed Christie vows to return
After three disqualifications at Sochi 2014, hopes were high for 2017 overall speed skating world champion Christie ahead of Pyeongchang 2018. But fate dealt her a crash in the 500m, a right ankle injury in the 1500m and a disqualification in her 1000m heat to compound her misery.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Christie, 27, said: ‘In Sochi I put my hand up and said I made some mistakes, although I was never a medal hope, although I was portrayed as one.’
‘Here, I should probably be coming home with one or two medals, gold medals. I might have made one or two mistakes but most of it was bad luck. Mentally, I was so prepared for this.’
Despite all these heartbreaks, Christie seems to have abandoned her plan to switch sports and now intends to return for Beijing 2022. She told Sky Sports, ‘I want to go the next Olympics and skate short track and long track. I’ve got so much more to give to the sport.’
‘I did want to retire to move on and do something else. I believe I can come back from this and want to show that not everyone achieves their dreams first time but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it.’
Moore and McNeill overcome loss of funding
The Olympic dream seemed over for Mica Moore and Mica McNeill after British Bobsleigh withdrew their funding in September 2017 – less than five months before the start Pyeongchang 2018.
But the team of Micas were determined and they launched a crowdfunding appeal to get their bid back on track and the British public responded by raising the £30,000 they needed in less than a week.
Moore and McNeill repaid public support with a very creditable eighth-place finish, which was Britain’s best-ever result in women’s bobsleigh and four places higher than any of the governing-body-funded men’s teams achieved.
‘Five months ago we didn’t know if we would even be here so to get here is an achievement in itself,’ McNeill told The Telegraph. ‘We’ve just loved every minute of it. It’s been incredible. We’ll be back in four years’ time and you’ll see us in amongst it.’
‘I really hope we don’t have to ask the people (for funding again). We don’t want to be powered by the people any more, as great as it has been. We want them to just be able to watch us and enjoy it and not have to help us out again.’