Rob van Bommel, Netherlands - Almost two weeks ago I read a farewell letter on Facebook from Katrina 'Kate' Lawrence. And although I am very much aware that all athlete sports careers come to an end sooner or later, it took me by surprise and my first thought was that I didn't want that to happen, "why can't she stay", I thought.
A question Kate answered really well in her farewell 'letter' and after having read it several times I can only say she made the right decision in my perception. Nevertheless I regret we will not see her that often anymore 'in the field'. Kate, together with her sisters Rosalyn and Jacqui, are wonderful people and athletes to have in a sport and I think canoe slalom can be grateful for that.
Another reason I wanted to share Kate's farewell with you is to show that sport is so much more than 'just' competitions, medals (for some) and athletes that don't appear on a results list anymore one day. Actually reading the letter there are lots of things and there are many athletes who work hard every single day for great performances. It takes something special to make them do what they do. Not only the athletes themselves but everyone who surrounds and supports them.
You could say that it was a less pleasant or disappointing experience that made Kate decide to wave competitive kayaking good bye. But in the end it was that kind of energy that made her decide to step into a new and bright future, a future of which she does not know yet where it will begin, let alone where it will take her.
People make the sport what it is and I would like to thank and celebrate one of those people and wish Kate all the best on her new exciting adventures.
27 June 2012, Farewell from Kate Lawrence
Kate Lawrence - Ok here it is - my corny farewell rant. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Three days ago I waved goodbye to my kayak, and to a pretty special period of my life.
When I entered my first canoe slalom race about 17 years ago, I had no idea where that boat was going to take me. My paddling career has given me so much: great friends; opportunities to travel to interesting and beautiful places; an appreciation of different cultures; a healthy and stimulating way of life; a desire to live outside the box, dream big, be ambitious and achieve great things; a sense of belonging to an awesome world-wide community; and some amazing experiences, both on and off the water. My paddling has helped shape the person that I am – my values, my ambition, my belief that ordinary people can do pretty exceptional things.
Like most elite athletes, I have experienced some triumphs… and many disappointments. Both have spurred me on, driven me to keep improving, keep learning, keep chasing my dream…
But missing the Olympic team this year was like having my heart and soul ripped out and stomped on. Again.
Logically, it seems ridiculous to feel this way. In this sport, with only one Olympic spot per class per nation, and some nations without even that, there are many great paddlers in the same position as me. I have been part of a very competitive group, and we have all become better paddlers because of it. And there are so many people in the world dealing with much bigger problems – war, poverty, starvation, persecution, cancer… – so I kind of feel like I am being an ungrateful, spoiled brat. I am healthy. I have amazing friends and family. I have had a very fortunate life so far, and many great adventures ahead of me, I’m sure. I have so much to be thankful for. But I can’t help but grieve the loss of a future that I worked so hard for, but that did not eventuate. I am tired. I am emotionally exhausted. My dream is gone, and along with it the drive, the motivation, the spark that is necessary to enjoy and benefit from training 1, 2 or 3 times a day, 6 or 7 days a week for the foreseeable future. In 2008 when I missed the Olympic team I got fired up. This time I feel like I’ve been beaten down. There are other goals that I have not yet achieved, and could keep working towards, but I just don’t want to do it anymore. And that is something that not so long ago I couldn’t imagine.
I have spent the last three weeks racing World Cups, wanting to finish on a better note than the Olympic selection races. In many ways I have enjoyed this last hurrah. It has been a pleasant mix of exploring a new course and city I had never been to before at Cardiff, re-discovering Pau, and returning to Seu – an Aussie team (and personal) favourite – for the umpteenth time. I have caught up with friends, and said goodbye to the team that has been like family for so many years. I have done some good paddling… Unfortunately my results don’t show it because I didn’t quite manage to hold together a whole run when I needed it. Which is really frustrating. And leaves me wondering why I signed up for 3 more kicks in the gut. But that is slalom. Some stubborn part of me wanted to do these races, and it didn’t work out.
I want to say thank you to everyone who over the years has helped me to achieve what I have, and who has been there for me when plans and goals have gone out the window: friends, family, coaches, team-mates, house-mates, training partners, support staff, sport psychs, sport scientists, physiologists, physiotherapists, skill acquisition specialists, strength and conditioning staff, career and education advisors, nutritionists, employers, sponsors… you know who you are, and you are more than those titles convey. THANK YOU.
Now it’s time for me to try new things, find new challenges. I have some vague plans that I’m pretty excited about. I might come back to paddling one day. Or I might not. That is not a decision I will make any time soon.
I’m going on a holiday. Adios,