Thanks For a Job Well Done

Story written by EPelle

Some genius once said that the trouble with dreams is that they’re just synaptic meanderings - gossamer mind fiction - so that one minute everything is perfect and this thing you’ve been chasing is so close you can almost inhale it, and the next, wham. It’s gone, and you’re back in reality, because no matter how wonderful a dream is, it’s never really real.

During the past 52 weeks, we’ve lauded superb gold-medal accomplishments, and have sat in utter disbelief through crashes and burns. We witnessed sprinters spike their shoes deep into the track and burst down the homestretch, and we've told the tale of how the first test of endurance was settled at the finish line in full view of several hundred million viewers - droves of personal crowds and classes of people who are proud of human accomplishment, motivated by the harmonious development of mind and body, and uncompromising in their conscious ideals of perfection.

Each of the high school, collegiate and professional athletes who dared to put it on the line this year - from grassroots level to the elites - was put to the ultimate test of dreaming and of finding a proper personal balance in your lives the past 365 days. We were there with you in spirit, and we have highly esteemed many of your performances both on and off the field. Our anticipation of what was to become climaxed when the dust settled and event winners and losers were declared.

A select few of you had the honor of being declared "champions" on medal stands at the state, collegiate and international level, and watched as your national flags were raised during your 15 minutes of fame. We as fans - through our collective acceptance of your efforts (notwithstanding victory or defeat) - gave of ourselves to you the honory crown of prestige and respect, and talk of your performances will live long past the final seconds it took you to reach the finish line, sucessfully glide over a final height, and cast an instrument its furthest distance.

Some of you athletes undoubtedly have touching stories of how you persevered under the most unusual circumstances to become champions in your homelands...you have been labeled heroes.

However, during the course of the season which was inked in 2006, you’ve learned that one’s hero status and merits may get him a cheap seat to the opening ceremony of the "big show". Ambition, longing and hunger may get her through the rounds and to the final. But gumption, guts, and a guilt-free conscious about passing up the world’s best runner during the final lap - realizing that in so doing, that person may not reach his god-like stature and final destiny if you beat him, are the only way assure you earn respect.

In the championships, it doesn’t matter if an athlete is underprivileged, overprivileged or has no privileges at all, the first three people across the line earned the right to stand on the podium and cry with the playing of their national anthems. Over time, many of the rest become forgotten...or end up as trivia questions on message boards across the world.

You dared to win in 2006, and you dared to fail. You dared to be perfect beyond perfection and live with the consequences of trying. You dared to face the challenge
, and in some cases, face the harsh reality of being terminated in your quest in disappointment, exhaustion, solemness and a shadow’s length from realizing your lifelong commitment to your dreams.

Some of you had a dream which produced a good story, but did not yet materialize into an actualization of your hopes. You had a dream which tasted so real and felt so close that you almost did inhale it. However, as of now, dreams which will take you at least one more year to lean across the tape and finish your races.

Thanks for not only dreaming about being champions in 2006, but for walking the championship walk, talking the championship talk, and for displaying true attributes of what makes the mark of a champion truly golden.

Here's hoping that Jordan Hasay continues her remarkable climb up the ladder, no one is able to cage Emily Pidgeon, David Klech makes a successful transition to the collegiate level, and A.J.'s Nation grows exponentially at the University of Oregon.

Here's also a toast to Xavier Carter for making the grade on two levels - showcasing his historic four NCAA medals on the collegiate scene, and the second-fastest 200m ever on the world scene.

May Kajsa Bergqvist find the extra two centimetres in her step at the 2007 IAAF World Championships - three days following the 20-year anniversary of Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova's world-record jump of 2.09cm set at the inagural world championships in Rome. On the same token, may Stefan Holm be justly rewarded for deciding this autumn to stick with the event two more years.

Finally, as the light dims on 2006, and the dawn of a new year is upon us, may one brave soul cast away the shadows which darkened the sport from 2003-2006 by means of drug scandals and set permanently the cornerstone upon which clean sport will thrive and shine from this day forward.

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