WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012 — Everything requires sacrifice. To reap a reward often requires risk. Just ask any financial professional such as the CEO of Brandes Financial who said at a recent financial conference: “You cannot predict anything. You can only calculate the risk vs. reward and even when you still do that, you don’t know what is going to happen.”
The same is true in sports, maybe even more true for phenomenal athletes such as the men and women who compete in the Olympics. These athletes invest a huge chunk of their lives — energy, time, and resources — in pursuing the Olympic dream.
Everyone desires success, even though everyone has a different definition of what that specifically means. Many clichés are branded to t-shirts saying, “Believe in yourself” and “The Sky’s the Limit.”
Pole-Vaulters Aim for the Sky
For pole-vaulters, that saying is literal. A pole-vaulter grabs a carbon fiber pole in his hands, runs at lightening speed while balancing the pole, plants the tip into the ground, and times the physics of force and speed to carry him or herself as high into the sky as possible. Every pound a vaulter carries matters and can change the dynamics of executing a perfect jump. Only one man has ever jumped over 20 feet and that was in 1994 by Sergey Bubka.
One study compares jumping over 18 feet as the equivalent to throwing a baseball over 100 mph, a feat very few ever accomplish. Pole-vaulting is one of few sports that allow a person to be temporarily weightless from brute strength and perfect finesse. Clearly, putting life into a carbon-fiber pole by choice makes these athletes a bit crazy.
Maston Wallace is the future of pole-vaulting. He is barely into his twenties, yet already fighting for a spot to represent the U.S. team. However, it has been anything but smooth sailing for the Texas native.
Maston shared his story with this columnist during a recent interview, giving an honest assessment of where he was and how he got to where he is today.
His talents began to shine during his senior year of high school when the majority of the best track and field schools including Baylor, Kansas, and Oregon were pursuing him. He chose the University of Texas, where he has continued to dominate in the pole vault. With success comes a great deal of pressure, and when Maston was plagued with consistent back pain and hamstring problems, the stress really began to settle in.
Not being able to compete without pain and expecting to win everything was too much. Maston needed a quick fix. He had to stay on top, whatever it took. Maston began increasing his self-medicated painkillers to be able to compete. The tantalizing pain and dosages increased at rapid paces, eventually requiring him to step away from the track and address the problem to save his life. “It was too much….” The pain-stricken eyes of Maston said it all.
Maston has a special gift that was suffocated by the pressure of his surroundings. Maston describes the pain and ensuing shakes as something he will never forget, now living a completely sober life. “Nothing brings clarity to what matters in life than feeling like you’ve lost everything…,” Maston trails off.
Maston Wallace Eyes the Olympic Gold
Maston was destined to be one of the most promising pole-vaulters the U.S. has produced, even when he wasn’t competing. His talents challenged even those of Bubka from many years before him. After a long and arduous recovery, Maston has found his way back on the track, stronger than ever.
His destiny is to vault, and to soar very high into the sky. Even when his journey temporarily served off-course, he ended at the same destination. What an interesting concept: his vision and focus. changed but he ended up right where he is supposed to be, qualifying for a spot at the Olympic Trials. Watching him compete is truly inspiring, almost like watching an artist paint a masterpiece.
Success can be addicting like a drug. Maston overcame a dangerous life of self-medication for his addiction to pole vault success. Such courage deserves respect and support. But his is only one story among the many. All eyes are focused on athletes like Maston Wallace (@mastonwallace) and the other Olympic hopefuls as they compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
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