Jon Rankin finished sixth in the 1500 meters at the US Olympic Trials last month. He was in fourth place until about 50 meters to go, when he realized he wasn't going to catch the top three and was himself caught by Will Leer and Alan Webb. He then kind of disappeared for a while, and as a good friend of his, I was particularly interested in what he planned to do.
He explains all of that in a new blog post. It turns out he was pretty much just shell-shocked from the experience. I don't blame him. James Carney said the same thing. Probably the worst position to be in is the guy who only kind of has a shot if he gives it 100% and everything falls into place, only it doesn't quite happen. It can be brutal on the emotions.
Jon had some inspirational things to say about the experience, however, and he also gave some insight into why he's become the great runner he is. Here's a snippet of his post:
"I've never considered myself a superstar and I've never considered myself to be any more special than anyone else. So as I was fortunate enough to qualify from one round to the next I was most pleased because I felt like I was another example of what all people can do. Then again maybe I have it all wrong, maybe we're all extraordinary and only a few have been lucky enough to realize it."
One of the hallmarks of successful people is the way they think about success in general. They view success in terms of effort and preparation. Talent is maybe assumed, but not something you can depend on as an advantage. As such, they see anyone and everyone as having the potential to be just as good as they are.
It may not be true, but it's how they think. That's why when you hear a top athlete saying he isn't underestimating anyone in the competition, it's probably true. He isn't focused on them--he should be focused only on what's under his control--but he's fully aware that he achieved his success through hard work and preparation, and there's nothing stopping his competition from doing the same.
When Jon sees other people, he sees the potential for the extraordinary. He assumes the extraordinary. It both keeps him on his guard in races and makes him an incredibly inspirational person to know and speak with. I have heard that he has become a very well-regarded public speaker over the past year. I have no doubt that's true. He empowers people.
I wrote before about the inherent risk in training like an Olympian. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have Jon in mind when I wrote it. And while Jon is no doubt crushed that his dream didn't come true, I've a feeling we are all going to benefit from it. With his way of thinking about others, his passion for the sport and helping people, and his untiring work ethic, big things are sure to come. On the track and off.
Keep on going, Jon. You're just getting started. And you've got a lot of people betting on you for London 2012!