Penticton’s Andi Naude showed the world what an Olympian should be last weekend.
Not by winning a medal, though she was oh so close. No, it was her attitude to not winning that hardware that makes her stand out.
Skiing in the women’s moguls finals Sunday, Naude — ranked No. 2 in the world going into the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics — must have been struggling with a level of disappointment few of us could understand when, after doing a full backflip with a twist off the difficult first jump, she lost control of her speed and had to ski off course causing her to be disqualified.
It was heartbreaking to watch, but even as tears welled up in her eyes Naude held her head high. And when she spoke, it wasn’t with regret about throwing a risky harder trick, but about the positives of giving it her all, and already starting to focus on the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“I can’t go back, I just have to keep my head up and look to the future,” said Naude.
That, friends, is spirit. If only we could all bear disappointment with that level of dignity and balance.
While it’s certainly a characteristic shared by other athletes and Olympians, it’s rare that we get a good look at it so clearly expressed. The focus is most often on the winners and the fog of other news stories that surround the Olympics: doping, judging scandals and the unbelievable money poured into these two weeks.
All that makes the outpouring of support we saw for Naude on social media all the more wonderful as people responded to her spirit with words of encouragement, love and thanks.
Naude’s accomplishments as an athlete are many. But she can add to that being a role model, not just for other athletes but for anyone, looking to her courage in the face of disappointment.