WALK THIS WAY By Anel Oosthuizen LIFE HAPPENS Throughout life, things happen to us that change the way we see the world around us, whether it is in our personal life, business career or sports career. Here is my experience of this. L ife often turns us upside down to give us a new perspective about certain things. This happened to me at the young age of 15 years old. I had won every walking race in South Africa up to that point, some four years in a row, and I felt invincible, unstoppable, and insanely motivated to do better, be the best and to never lose a race. With the disqualification, and the lengthy time it took me to recover, came the long road of getting back into shape, as well as probably the biggest barrier, regaining confidence in my technique as a race walker. I must have watched over 100 videos and looked through even more photos in the months after the disqualification, trying to find an error, looking to find a flaw in my technique! Looking back now, I can see that it was all part of the journey to becoming the athlete and person I am today. Somebody that now understands that sometimes things happen that you do not have control over, and the best is to accept it and move on. Setting a Good Example I often get asked how I keep motivated, or how have I kept going when my motivation was low – and race walking can bring disappointments that damage your motivation. I don’t make a secret of it that I also go through patches where I feel like training is too much effort, where I feel I just don’t want to at that point. I am human, flawed in so many ways, but the upside to that is we find ways to better ourselves and to learn from our mistakes. I’ve learned how to ‘trick’ my mind into just doing it, instead of thinking about it too much. Because life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savouring the journey. I have worked with many development athletes from ages 6 up to 16, and if there is one thing that I have always wanted them to take home after a training session, it has always been to believe in themselves. To not give anyone the ability to make them feel less worth it, whether it is as an athlete or a person. To never think that their dreams are too big. Being a living testimony of someone who at one stage couldn’t ever imagine going as far as representing her country at an Olympic Games, I believe now that it doesn’t matter how unlikely something seems, that one should never, ever lose hope. Because you are much braver than you think, more talented than you could know, and capable of more than you could ever imagine. Today it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I was young and inexperienced, and looking back, I wouldn’t change that whole ordeal for the world. Back then, I didn’t want anyone to know because I thought it defined who I was as a person... weak, and a failure. I wish I could have told that 15-year-old little girl to pick up her head and to not get sidetracked by something that would become her motivation later on. Confidence Knocked It was only months after the disqualification that I could once again start to get back into serious training, because coming back from that disappointment was not an easy road. While being disqualified may sound like nothing to everyone else, for me back then, at such a vulnerable age, it felt like my whole world shattered. It was 100 times more difficult to accept and to process than it would probably be for a 25-year-old me today. 28 ISSUE 127 FEBRUARY 2020 / www.modernathlete.co.za ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Race Walker Anel Oosthuizen is a multiple SA Champion and Record Holder, and represented SA in the women’s 20km at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The year 2011 was no different, and I was well on my way to being crowned the South African champ again, when suddenly I was disqualified. Just like that, my four-year winning streak was over. I was mortified, ashamed, and so incredibly sad. I cried like I have never cried before, and didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.