Friday, 4 July 2014

Guess Who's Back in Town & Adventures Through Athleticsland

Ja, ek het skaamteloos daai titel van 'n Jack Parow liedjie geneem!

It's been 3 months since I last posted and I forgive all ye avid readers of this blog.  I had some grievous laptop problems and I was unable to log back into this ol' blog of mine.  But, as the title indicates, I am back on The Lonelyman Diaries and also in South Africa for a month or two.

Quite a number of things happened to me during this period of radio silence.  I suppose those of you who know me because of athletics might point to the end of my 2013-2014 season as one of the major highlights (or lowlights) of this past time.  I shall tell you about it.

I started with discus throwing back in 2005 (that's 9 years ago, can you believe it?).  My uncle who coached, at what was to be my future high school- Paarl Gymnasium, one day in I think December '05 brought some discuses and shots along and I threw them into a the veld, which was a situated next to our house in the little mining town of Koingnaas along South Africa's relatively untamed West Coast.  I threw further and further every time I put my hand to the discus, at least initially, and before you know it I was gunning for the IAAF World Youth Championships of 2011 in Lille, France.  I was ranked second and had my heart set on gold.  Many nights I would fall asleep dreaming of how I would clinch the title with emphatic 67m+ throw and become the hero of my country, but interestingly enough for me, of my high school.  I had a torrid day and finished up in 5th position with one of my worst competitions of the year, almost not reaching the top 8.  Worst of all, I had to witness the fellow who won the competition let his discus sail past 67m.  It's one thing to see how you fail at reaching a goal, but it's another when someone else replaces you in your dream in real life.  I thank God that I had no resentment against him, except that he I felt he didn't seem happy enough after the win.  I mean, I was dreaming of how I would do a kneeslide a la footballer or rip my shirt off like Robert Harting.  He only had a big grin and held his nation's flag aloft.

Later that year, I had some respite when I got 3rd place, and thus my first medal at an international meet, at the Commonwealth Youth Games.  Yet again, the winner let his discus sail past 67m and broke the National Youth Record I set a few months prior.  Double whammy.
A year later, I failed to reach the final of the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain and the chap who clinched gold in Lille did it again.  Two years of massive build-up and expectation with failure in the end.  A failure that was not glorious, but the failure was also not ultimate. 
I was so fortunate to get a scholarship from the University of South Alabama right after that disastrous World Juniors Qualifying Round.  I dreamt of going to America for university since 2010, now it was a reality.

My freshman season in college had one or two flashes of brilliance, but overall, was quite above par for me.  I didn't reach Nationals, even though I only needed an average distance to make it.  I was homesick, I thought maybe America was not for me.
In May I stepped up to the plate at the NCAA East Region Track and Field Championships, not at all favoured to make Nationals.  The top 12 finishers on the day progress, I was ranked 16th.  After a cracking start which saw me in at 6th position after round one, I witnessed how my ranking slowly trickled away from 1 and closer to 16.  At the start of round 4 I was 15th.  I pulled out what was to be my best throw and narrowly clung on to 12th position.  In round 5 I was surpassed and finished 13th.
Now in athletics you have 3 cruel numbers - 4, 9 and 13.  You don't want to finish in those positions because they signal that you were as close as one could possibly be to a medal or to reaching the top 8 or to reach finals, but not a actually reach those goals.

Why would I tell you such a depressing tale of losses and insufficiencies?
Hope.  Hope is what permeates a tale of seemingly unsuccessful attempts at striving for goals.  I reached a minority of the major goals I set myself over the last 4-5 years.  Yet, my heart is still pumping, my soul still yearning with the fire that was stoked by wasting years away in front of the television that told me magnificent stories of sporting glory.  I still want that.  The Jan-Louw that watched Yelena Isinbayeva crying like mad after claiming her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the Pole Vault at Beijing 2008, is still the same Jan-Louw sitting in front of an Lcd typing these words - yet more wiser, yet more hardened, yet more at peace, yet more balanced.

In the poem Ulysses the old king reflects "All times I have enjoyed greatly, (I) have sufferred greatly".  A powerful saying.  Or as Samwise Gamgee- the biggest hero- said in The Two Tears "It's like in the great stories. The ones that really matter. Full of darkness and danger they were... those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something.  Even if you were to small to understand why.  The kept going, because they were holding on to something."

I hold on hope