But cry and you cry alone


Jenny Simpson speaks to the media after her race in Boston Saturday

Whatever your line of work, you’ll do better, and feel better about what you do, if you can bring a sense of humor to your job.
That might be particularly true for elite athletes, whose very profession is fraught with not just the possibility, but the virtual guarantee of some degree of failure, at some point. No matter how dominant or “in the groove” they might be, a bad bounce of the ball or a slip or trip can bring disaster in the blink of an eye (witness Peyton Manning in the recent Super Bowl to see how fast a near-perfect season can be undone in the space of four quarters of football).
As fans, we have a car crash mentality when it comes to athletic success and failure. While we like to see athletes, especially our favorites, win, it’s their losses, whether in a Super Bowl or an Olympic final, and how they handle falling short in what for some might be the literal chance of a lifetime that define them in our memories long after they’ve retired from their sport. The history of sports is replete with those who have blamed others for their own failures, and needless to say they are seldom accorded a space in our personal pantheon of sporting heroes. But those who accept responsibility for coming up short in the big moment, and even better, can laugh about it, become admired as much for their outlook and attitude as for any medals or championships they may have won when fate smiled on them in a kinder moment.If that’s the case, Jenny Simpson, already a role model in the American track and field world for her accomplishments on the oval, including gold and silver medals at the last two World Championships, proved two things at last Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Center track in Boston. One, that even the absolute best can make a bonehead mistake in the heat of high level competition, and Two, if you can laugh about it, you’ll live to race again another day, and the world may love and respect you even more than if you’d won in record time.
For those who didn’t see the meet on TV or read about it, the short version is that Simpson began her finishing kick a lap too early in the final event of the day, the women’s two mile, catching and passing Sally Kipyego on the backstretch of what she thought was the final 200 meters, only to cross the finish line and realize she still had one more circuit of the banked oval to go. In spite of the faux pas, Simpson finished second and missed breaking Regina Jacobs’ 12-year-old American record of 9:23.38 by only a few seconds.
That might have been reasonable grounds for a tirade or tears, but instead Simpson was graciously self-deprecating in the mixed zone afterwards.
“I’m OK, I’m just an idiot,” she said with a laugh. “Now I’ve given up the right to laugh at anyone else who’s ever done that. I thought I had it all together and didn’t need the lap counter – lesson learned, I’m definitely going to be looking at the lap counter from now on.”
Even missing a venerable, and in the eyes of many a tainted AR by a few ticks couldn’t upset her. “That stinks so bad,” she said. “That would have been a cool story if I would have been that stupid and still gotten the record. Anyway it didn’t happen and I deserve not to get it because I was dumb and didn’t keep track of things. But at the very least I’m I have a little dash to my ego but a good confidence booster for the next thing.”
She’ll have a chance to bounce back this weekend when she races the USATF cross country championships in her adopted hometown of Boulder, CO. But whether Simpson emerges with a gold medal or slips and falls in a mud puddle and finishes far back in the pack, there’s no doubt she has learned, and taken to heart, the lines from Kipling’s “If,” to “meet with Triumph and Disaster,
 And treat those two impostors just the same.” And walk away with a laugh and a smile on your face – you’ll be champion, no matter what the results say.


One thought on “But cry and you cry alone

  1. Wonderful spirit on Jenny Simpson. A pleasant change from watching that young lady at London spend the last lap of the race crying and pounding the track and the cameras staying on her as if it were the main story.

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