I sustained the first knee injury of my professional career as a mountain biker some few weeks ago. Although I have had injuries to my knees before, that was when I was starting to learn how to ride a bicycle as a child.
I sustained this injury during a big competition that attracted lots of big goons in the sport, which included racers like myself, sponsors, and spectators all over America. It was a big money race that everybody involved wanted to win.
I was not supposed to race in that particular category of the competition; it was beyond my league, but the truth was that I had always been ahead of my league.
I raced in the junior category, but when I race, my mates usually watch me far ahead of them. Sometimes, I would join the big guys to race, to test my ability, to know my limits. And this had done me well when it came to getting ready for the future.
My coach once told me that my opportunity would come one day to race with the pros in a competition, and he liked that I was pushing myself even without being told.
I know I was doing great and pushing myself, but I never knew I was going to close in a short time to be finishing second in a test race, behind Andy, the fastest racer the base had ever produced.
Andy was involved in a car accident a few days to the major competition. My coach walked into the locker room one evening as I was changing.
“You have people’s attention now,” he said ambiguously, his favorite way of opening a touching conversation.
“What?” I asked, feeling very confused.
“Andy had an accident last night after attending a party with his friends,” he said.
I felt so disturbed. “I hope it wasn’t much? How is he?”
He could see I was genuinely disturbed. “He will live, but will not be able to race for a while. He broke a leg.”
“He won’t be in this competition? “ I asked
“No, he won’t be.” I could see the coach felt bad too.
“Then it’s up to Brad.”
Brad was the closest to Andy before I started to race with them, catch up, and started to beat him to second place. But to race with the big guys in the test races is different from racing in an important competition. In a competition like this, every other coach will still feed one of his big guys for the big match. So naturally, he would be the replacement to Andy on the pro level.
I had thought that when I commented that it was up to Brad to replace Andy, not knowing that the coach had something else in mind.
“You have shown some ability recently, kid,” he started in a fashion he usually addressed me- ‘kid.’ It always makes me wonder if he ever knew my name. “Do you not wonder what I meant earlier?”
“You always speak in parables coach,” I replied.
He smiled briskly. “Just like I said, you have shown some character lately. Though I have always known that you were destined for great things, but you have surpassed my expectations.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “Andy’s accident was a tragedy, but I want to seize the opportunity to show you to the world. And I want you to use the opportunity to show what you have been working so hard to become…..”
“But…. Coach, I haven’t…..”
He cut me short. “You have now. What I request from you is to believe in yourself, as I… we all believe in you kid.”
I couldn’t meet his eyes. For one, I was overwhelmed. And I was sad I had my chance because someone got injured in an accident.
Perhaps the coach was also a wizard because he must have read my mind. “I know how you feel. People get injured all the time in a sport like this, just like every other sport. Some come before the real match or in the real match. One must be ready to seize those moments. For himself and his teammates.”
I nodded and said. “Okay coach… thank you for this opportunity. I won’t let you down.”
“I’m certain you won’t. Do you know why I am so sure?” he didn’t wait for me to say ‘no’ before he continued “because no matter the outcome of the race, we have chosen to give you a chance. So all you need to do is not to let yourself down.”
He ran his fingers through my hair and left me.
I have never raced with so many people present. They were all cheering and screaming at the top of their voices, urging their own to go on. The number of eyes staring at me at once made my heart skip a bit. It felt like my breathing wasn’t getting down to where it supposed to. Coach showed up at that moment I was feeling I won’t be able to leave where I was when the gun goes, with Andy trailing with a stick behind him, POP on his leg.
“Remember to breathe,” Andy said, and I did.
The race started, and I was trailing at sixth place. But I knew I could do better, so I started to gather more speed. I was new to the path, but I was doing quite well. I caught up with the fifth and the fourth, so that placed me on the third and I was gaining on the second still.
I must have focused too much on overtaking the second because when I was about to at a corner, my pulled out knee brushed the packed sand and gave it a little twist. The pain was sharp and persistent, but I managed to bear the pain only that I couldn’t push too hard anymore. I maintained my speed and decided to finish third is better than not to finish at all.
My prize from the race gave me surgery, and I felt awesome and ready to race again.