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I was going to give a CYCLING TIP about something completely different today until half way into my ride to work. I bumped into a good friend of mine named Sharon Laws. It was a good thing because this was that last time I’ll be seeing her for a long time since she’s moving back to the UK. If you don’t know who Sharon Laws is, I’ll briefly fill you in.
I met Sharon shortly after I moved to Melbourne. She had just moved to Melbourne as well and came on the same group rides that I do with some old fat fellas on Saturday mornings. She rode this old Giant with mud and grease everywhere, an enormous saddle bag that hung and swung about under her seat. Her riding was sporadic as she worked as an Environmental Consultant for Rio Tinto Mining and was constantly travelling to the jungles of Brazil, Peru, South Africa, etc.
As we got to know Sharon we found out that she had done quite well in many mountain bike and adventure races. Not hard to believe since she always demonstrated that she was a better climber than most of us – even with 1/10 the amount of riding that she did.
A couple years later of the same routine Sharon decided to step up her training a notch, travel less for work, and enter some road races. She had done one or two road races before and did exceptionally well (i.e. podium finishes) – especially for someone who wasn’t a road racer.
She then entered the Tour of Bright in 2007 and won it! It’s a race that suited her perfectly as it has lots of climbing with a final stage 30km ascent finish on Mt Hotham. Good on her!
One month later Sharon’s progression and determination kept up a rapid pace. She entered the 2008 Australian National Road Race. This was her first real big road race where some prominent names were competing. Guess what? She got second (to Oenone Wood)! This quickly got her recognized in the pro ranks and before she knew it she was racing professionally in Europe on Nichole Cooke’s team. She kept on getting results while working tirelessly for Cooke. She even ended up 6th in the Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin (the Woman’s Tour de France).
To keep this brief I’ve skipped a lot of great results, exciting experiences and details on her journey to paint the picture, but you get the point. Sharon’s rise to the top is absolutely unheard of.
After some stellar results and the great value that Sharon added to her team she was selected for the British Olympic Team for Beijing. Unbelievable! However, it huge disappointment when she crashed in June whilst filming for a BBC Olympic special and broke her fibula. Were her Olympic dreams over? Absolutely not! She was well looked after and made a remarkable recovery. She got on the wind trainer as soon as she physically could (within a couple of weeks) and was still selected for the Olympic team based on her incredible form that she was able to maintain despite a broken bone.
It was the coolest thing watching Sharon on TV during the Olympics in the trenchal downpour and seeing her play such a big part in Nichole Cooke’s gold medal. I get chills just thinking about it. Sharon also backed it up in the World Championships by helping her teammate win another gold medal.
Sharon will turn to the mountain bike for the next four years in her buildup to London 2012. The fact that London’s road race course is flat and a sprinter’s course does not bode as well for her chances to get selected. That’s the reality of how these things work. If you have a shot at making the Olympics in your home country you have to do whatever it takes to make the cut – even if it requires changing disciplines. I have to admit, I never in a million years thought anyone could have come this far, especially in such a short amount of time. Now that I’ve seen it first hand, I have no doubt in my mind that Sharon will work on the mountain bike skills she needs and quite possibly win a medal London 2012.
The point of all this? It sounds cliche, but nothing is impossible. When meeting someone like Sharon and realizing that she’s a normal person like everybody else and has achieved what she has in this amount of time, I realize that "nothing is impossible" is absolutely true. The difference that I see in Sharon over the rest of us is that she’s extremely hard working, very self motivated, and does whatever it takes to get her training in. Even when things go wrong, she does what she needs to do to make them right. Broken leg? Why would that stop her? Flat tire and no tube? She’ll still ride 100km home instead of calling for a ride. Rain? Don’t even get me started. She always finds a way. I believe it’s that frame of mind that makes a huge difference. Not all of us will have the natural ability to do what Sharon has done, but if you set goals, aim high and follow through with the right preparation there’s no reason why you can’t achieve whatever goals you set for yourself – no matter how small or large. I see living proof of this all the time.
"Do, or do not. There is no try." – Yoda