Going for the Gold

Written by Sally Holmes, Media Coordinator, Team RICONN

There is less than 100 hours left until the London 2012 Olympic Games begin! Obviously, this was an important discussion point for Team RICONN as we relaxed late Sunday afternoon before heading onwards and upwards to New Haven Monday morning. A wonderful couple from the congregation at Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown, CT, had invited us over to swim and eat the day before out departure. On their table lay various magazines, many of which featured the Olympics, which led us to think about what it would be like to be the very best.

Team RICONN had a relaxing day at Susan and Bill’s home… where members of the team got to swim in their beautiful 3-acre pond!

At first, we wondered about the very feeling of being the absolute best in something. It must be the greatest sense of elation in the world, we decided. But then I got to thinking – even if you were to win the Gold in your respective sport, there could be past records that beat your win. There might be people in other age groups or divisions or even sports that are faster or have more precise technique. And there will definitely be people after you just gearing up to beat your time or score.

We deliberated ways to get into the Olympics – maybe if we took up curling now, in a decade or two we would be good enough for the national team? Or what if we brought a new sport into the Games? This was where our host entered the conversation – Susan Wasch, wife of the wise and funny Bill Wasch. Susan mentioned that she used to play what was to us an obscure sport – platform tennis, an interesting combination of squash and tennis, played on a platform in the wintertime. After some questioning, we discovered that Susan was actually a 5-time national champion and the youngest woman ever to be inducted into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame, in addition to being featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd.”

Susan’s accomplishments are pretty impressive to say the least, but she never competed in the Olympics because platform tennis was never in the Games. This is when I realised that being a serious athlete is somewhat comparable to being a serious climate activist. However serious you are about your sport or cause, sometimes an outside force keeps you from achieving complete and utter fulfilment. And even when you are doing an awesome job in your sport or cause, even when you have successfully shut down one coal plant, new ones can spring up elsewhere.

Climate activism takes a whole lot of hard work – and sometimes, you do get out what you put in. But to get anywhere near the top of an issue, you need the support of people surrounding you. It’s the same deal with competing in the Olympics – you need family support, coaches, practise partners, sponsorships, fans. And sometimes, you do everything right – you work as hard as possible and you feel like you’re finally ready for the competition, and then you tear a ligament and have to start training all over. In climate activism, you can give it your all, throw everything you have into the movement, and in the blink of an eye, an influential company can issue a single statement that forces you to start back at the grassroots.

In Climate Summer, we always talk about going against the grain – not being afraid to do something different. Susan Wasch is a great example of this for us; she was spectacular at a sport many people don’t know anything about and didn’t let anyone (including the governing body of the Olympics) keep her from playing. Plenty of people give us weird looks when we explain what we’re doing for the summer and why we believe in fighting deadly energy and climate change, but we know it is worth it and we’re getting better at it each day.

As far as I’m concerned, Climate Summer is full of Olympians. There will always be people competing against us, breaking down our positive work and trying to hinder what we’re fighting for. But we can’t win everything; no one can. We just have to keep on getting better at what we can win and putting all of our efforts into everything that we work toward. If we do that, then I’d certainly consider us champions.

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