September 25/13 18:50 pm - The Highs and Lows of the World Championships
Posted by Editoress on 09/25/13
The Highs and Lows of the World Championships (by Monique Hanley)
Monique Hanley will be familiar to many of our readers - a former pro road and track rider from Melbourne, Australia, Monique always pitches in to help us out whenever she attends a world championships. Here, she has written a short essay on the difficulties of interviewing athletes after their day has not gone as expected, one of the hardest jobs we have. You can follow Monique on Twitter: @moniquehanley
There is always something special about the World Championships. Every race produces such a range of emotion from those involved. No one just 'rolls across the line'. No one enters an event 'just because' - just ask Svein Tuft on his decision to withdraw from the Individual Time Trial. So, each day, at every event, you know that every single rider is there to do their utmost best.
You don't see this passion and commitment just from the riders. At the Junior Women's Individual Time Trial podium, event staff had a breach of security as a mad rush of Aussie fans made their way into the restricted area for a better view of the podium presentations. In amongst the presentation ceremony you could clearly hear cries of 'That's MY Girl!', thanks to the mother of surprise silver medallist, Alexandria Nicholls. No fast-speaking Italian event security was going to stand in the way of a proud and passionate parent.
While each event produces winners with terrific background stories of overcoming, meticulous preparation and perfect execution; those placed beyond the podium are home to other stories: unmet expectations, unexplained performances, and the associated heart break.
Standing at the finish line of the Elite Women's ITT, I watched as each rider crossed the line, drop their head in exhaustion at a job done, and then valiantly try to obey staff by finding an ounce of energy to apply the brakes before the road finished abruptly. The body language was common: these athletes were completely spent, some unable to breath, some with leg seizures, all exhausted. I was waiting for the current Canadian ITT Champion, Joelle Numainville.
Hers was a story full of expectation. A multiple Canadian Champion, Olympic representative, and recent stage winner of the Ardeche Ladies Tour, Numainville knew she had form, and with it, a great expectation that she would perform strongly. My task was to grab a post-race interview, focussed on her performance and the build up to the event. Would nerves be a factor in the race?
The extended wait between riders was a first clue. The timing system on the finish line gantry was a second. But these were immaterial. The expression on Numainville's face told far more than the 1minute 16 second deficit to the Hot Seat holder, Dane Annike Langvald. Her face was ashen, her mouth open with a look of horror. On removing her helmet, I could see from her glazed eyes that she seemed to be in shock. I put my recorder away. Not now.
I remember trying to interview a MTB downhiller, French woman Sabrina Jonnier who was the favourite for the 2009 World Championships, after she crashed and flatted on her final run. Inconsolable and with her eyes fixed on the ground, she exited the finish area quickly and no interview was possible.
I knew Numainville needed more time to recover before speaking to the media. I hope I gave her the time she needed. Part of me wanted to leave her alone, but I knew it was important for her story to be told. Ever the professional athlete, she agreed to an interview and allowed herself to share some of her feelings. She spoke very faintly, with her voice full of the emotion of a terrible disappointment.
Whether we are athletes or not, we all experience disappointment in our lives, and I believe this is what makes sport so appealing and beautiful. It is full of emotion, of ups and downs. We don't know exactly how it must have felt to be Numainville, but when you read her words you can certainly sympathise with being so disappointed after having such high expectations. And I hope you too will be wishing that much harder for her to have a great race this coming Saturday.
[Editor's Note: Monique did a video interview with Joelle, but we decided to go with a written version]