Nikola Girkes Olympic debrief
Coming back home brought it's own set of emotions
October 5, 2008
Just a hello to say I'm still alive!
I can't believe October just started...it's been a whole month that I've been home....and wow...did it go by quickly. I said I'd write an "Olympic debrief" and to be quite honest, I've needed this month to let all my experiences sink in, my emotions to recover and frankly, just some time off.
Coming back home brought it's own set of emotions - after being treated like celebrities in China, it was a bit of a let down coming home to being "just me" - I hadn't won a medal and thus, not really worthy of celebration. So, back to normal life it was - but really...what is normal life to someone that has trained for years straight that isn't training at the moment? Then the inevitable happened - I got a bad cold that knocked me out for over 2 weeks. I knew that this would happen, as it does for many athletes after a big competition and for anyone who is on the edge of stress (physically and/or mentally) for months. My body just said, enough is enough - you are doing nothing now. So, I did... I did nothing.
But....I'm back. I can finally say that I am feeling much better again, enjoying the simpler things in life and not just rushing from one training to the next. I was even able to make it to my friend's wedding - the first in many, many years. It's actually quite a nice change to be able to say, "yes, I'll be there" to invites and make plans, that I'm so used to saying...."no, I'll be away again".
The Olympics left me with a mix of bitter-sweet emotions. It truly is a unique experience in so many ways. For some, just making it to the Olympics is a dream come true, while for others, their dream isn't realized until they can bring home a medal. For me, qualifying myself for the Olympics achieved my first goal, and a huge step towards Olympic success. I knew going into the Olympics, that to bring home an Olympic medal, I'd have to have some serious horseshoes on my side. I knew that the Beijing Games would be a stepping stone for me, with the possibility to post a solid top 10 score.
The start of my competition went very well and as the competition progressed, things went slightly downhill. In sailing - you can only control yourself, not the others around you, the wind, the waves or the piece of bamboo that got stuck to my fin in one of the races. I sailed my best races in the conditions that were the hardest for me and when it came to "my conditions", it just didn't come together for me. I think that is the hardest for me to take as I was yearning for one of those days - one that should have almost guaranteed me to move up the leader board. Easy to say..." if only" so I do feel disappointment in my results but I also know that I did turn many heads in the process. I can count the places that I lost on stupid stuff - some lack of experience and some due to bad luck and I can honestly say that the top 10 was not out of the question - I could have been sitting in about 8th. But that is all hypothetical and I guess I just got to get out there and do it all again, this time with all the experience I've accumulated.
And experience counts for so much. I was relatively green to windsurfing in comparison to my competitors at the Olympics. Only 5 other girls of the 16 girls that finished ahead of me had never been to the Games, however, one was World Ranked #1 and another was the Pre-Olympic Champion from last year. Of the remaining 11 girls, 8 of them had previously won Olympic or World Championship medals and the other 3 have been to the Games 2 or more times. Basically, I had my work cut out for me. Not having had a coach for the start of my campaign kept me from advancing as quickly as the rest, let alone catch up to them, but when I finally did get the additional support needed to have a coach for the 4 months leading up to the Olympics, I advanced leaps and bounds. My improvement was remarkable and very exciting. It demonstrated once again how important it is to run a professional program when competing in a professional sporting world.
With that being said, I still have unfinished business in my sporting career. Although these past few years have been pretty tough, I do still really enjoy what I'm doing and I know the potential is in me to do great things and accomplish my dream and goal. I want to continue, I want to pursue what I set out to do, and that is to bring home a medal. But, my program needs support, it needs to be professional.
Switching sports from sailing to windsurfing wasn't a very easy task. I started from square one and had to face competitors who have been at this sport for up to 2 decades. Daunting, frustrating,.......were just a couple of the feelings I went through along the way. I think one of the best things I was told by my friend Holly before I went to the Olympics was that I inspired her; she told me that she has never heard me say "I can't". I thought about what she said many times, and realized that her remark was pretty true. Your support, whichever way or form it comes in means a lot to me and helps me believe "I Can".
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all those who have made my campaign possible and rewarding in so many ways. Whether it was supportive emails, gear/clothing support, donations and sponsorship backing, your support was very much appreciated. I can not list everyone....and for those that I may not have not listed here, I have not forgotten your support.
The P.J.Phelan Sailing Foundation
Jinshan Gold Mines
Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
Canadian Athletes Now Fund
John O. Richardson
Level 10 Fitness
my family and my friends
and some pictures to finish off with....
1) Our closing ceremonies uniform - aka - the funny pants were actually really comfortable and light weight. I actually wore them quite a bit and kept them.
2) How cool is a 3 person bicycle - transportation for the masses - although we were a bit too tall and heavy for the bike, our knees kept hitting the person in front of us when pedaling and steering was quite difficult. Very fun and full of laughs.
3) China built some pretty cool buildings...this is just one of the "olympic buildings"
4) Me in the rings in our Sailing Village in Qingdao.
5) The Bird's Nest was such a cool stadium. I was fortunate enough to be invited to watch the athletics on my first night in Beijing after my competition. Definitely a different experience being part of an audience than for the opening ceremonies.
6) Nearing the end of the Olympics, many people were trading their team gear, myself included. There are of course the favourites that everyone keeps, but for the rest there was a bargaining bazaar in front of the Swiss Team house in the village. Everyone brought all that they wanted to trade, laid it out on the lawn or went around to other people's "stalls" until they saw something they wanted. I came home with some pretty neat things from other athletes.
7) Qingdao, the sailing city, really got behind the sailing and made it quite spectacular. Whole buildings were covered with banners, laser shows, scrolling images of sailboats and the mascots - but along the way the hired some people that didn't really know much about the different sailing classes. In this picture the sailboat is a 49er, a skiff boat sailed by 2 people - with a double trapeze, which means they stand on the wings of the boat and are hanging off trapeze wires to keep the boat level. However, they photoshopped this picture and combined elements of two different sailing classes: the 49er and the Yngling (3 girl keelboat). They ended up pasting 3 girls hiking off the side of the boat, so now we have 3 girls (which were 3 blond Dutch girls photoshopped to be wearing the Chinese colours and have dark hair) Of course, us sailors still recognize their faces. And those three girls are hiking off the wing of a 49er. So for any of you who know what a 49er is....you'll think this one's pretty funny.
That's all folks.