Archive for the ‘People’ Category

The Stuff of an Olympian

Monday, April 12th, 2010

[by Fritz] I remember watching this vibrant Australian blonde win gold in aerial ski jumping during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. She made it look so easy, and the Aussies went mad when she won. Four years later this same feisty girl took bronze at Turin. In a TV interview she talked about overcoming a string of injuries and broken bones and multiple concussions to do it. I remember wondering what motivated her to compete in such a crazy sport.

A few months ago I got a last-minute call from the Canadian Tourism Commission to shoot one of the 2010 torchbearers in the Yukon. Australian sports superstar and double-medallist Alisa Camplin was coming to run through the streets of Dawson City. I read that Sports Illustrated once listed her as one of the world’s ten sexiest Olympians. Only after reading about the shocking physical challenges she’d faced – she’d broken this and broken that and re-tore ligaments just four months before Turin – did I remember seeing her on TV.

It was a dark morning in Dawson, and Alisa’s torch run was short with disappointing backdrops. That was one shoot I could have really used my new high ISO camera (Canon 1D Mark IV). She was being covered by a pack of media, but in those few minutes she was really gracious and worked hard to give us good shots. She seemed to appreciate the attention in a genuine way.

Later, in the empty bar at the Downtown Hotel, I spent a couple of hours with Alisa and her boyfriend while they played pool and I was uploading files. They were really nice people, and I got to ask Alisa my questions about how she did it.

When she was about four years old she remembers deciding that some day she was going to win the Olympics, only she didn’t know yet which sport. She tried some typical Australian sports, and somehow ended up a skiing aerialist in a country with little snow.  She said she had lots of momentum to win the gold medal, but she had to work much harder and is way more proud of her bronze medal four years later. The physical and mental challenges sounded huge the second time around.

In Dawson she talked about wanting a family, and that her new dream was to be a doctor of sports medicine. But she also seemed doubtful and thought it was probably too late, so instead maybe she’d become a nurse or physical therapist. It was amazing to hear these crazy stories of how hard she pushed herself as an athlete, and you’d think someone with her willpower and courage would have it all figured out. But like lots of us she’s also grappling with unfulfilled dreams and lack of confidence.

I really enjoyed meeting Alisa, and I appreciated her openness about her personal triumphs and challenges. I hope she finds success with her new dreams.