Lifestyle Health

Monday 19 February 2018

Just imagine all the talent that lies beneath

Michelle Pfieffer in the 2000 blockbuster, What Lies Beneath.
Michelle Pfieffer in the 2000 blockbuster, What Lies Beneath.

Gerry Duffy

This week I would like to tie two completely unrelated items together for the sake of a powerful message. The first is the title of the film What Lies Beneath – the 2000 blockbuster. The connection stops there. I am only stealing the title. We will come back to this later.

The second is a philosophy of four-time World Ironman Triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington. Back in 2012, I listened to a presentation Wellington gave at Trinity College, Dublin.

In the last five minutes of her 60-minute delivery, she said something which has stuck with me since. Wellington was at pains to query how many people are sitting at home night after night leading dormant lives (sports activity wise) but who actually have a hidden talent for sport.

She was trying to open our minds as to just how much undiscovered talent might be out there. She is well qualified to query it, for she could have been that person. Wellington – who was born in Suffolk in 1977 – only really began to get into sport seriously at the age of 27.

Yes, she had swum to a high standard in school and had run a marathon at 25 (2002), but her main motivation was to lose weight. By professional standards, her finishing time in her first marathon was modest. She confessed that she enjoyed the social side of sport more back then than the activity element.

Soon after her debut in a social triathlon, she headed to Nepal on a work sabbatical. Whilst in the Himalayas, she mountain biked for fun and ran at weekends in the Kathmandu valley. Two years later (2006) – and despite having never kayaked before – she entered a 243k adventure race in New Zealand and finished second. Later that year, she returned to England and entered the Shropshire Olympic triathlon. This qualified her for the ITU World Age Group Title (Amateur) Championships which she won.

Despite competing in only a handful of triathlons, in early 2007, Wellington decided to turn professional.

That career was actually very short as she retired two years ago. Sand- wiched in between, however, were an astonishing 13 Ironman victories and four world titles. She also smashed the world record.

Her parting words at Trinity still ring in my ears. "I often wonder," she concluded, "how many people are at home sitting on their sofas not realising what potential they have to be great at something."

She was questioning how many more Chrissie Wellingtons were out there but might never realise what talent they possess.

Ever since, I have often reflected on her words. I wonder 'what lies beneath' our population, among those who never take up sport or challenge themselves to take the plunge, preferring instead to sit and watch.

Of course, everyone is perfectly entitled to do so but I am sure Ms Wellington is glad she ran that maiden marathon.

Perhaps it is like so many things in life. The thought and decision to do something is often the hardest part. The reward for doing so, however, can be immense.

Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete.

Irish Independent

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