Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

Ever since I can remember, it has been my dream to represent my country at the Olympic Games. Five weeks ago, that dream became a reality. I had the honor of traveling to Nanjing, China to represent the United States as well as the sport of climbing at the Youth Olympic Games. It was the single most important event I have ever attended, and the implications for the future of climbing are huge. For all purposes, it was the greatest experience of my life, and I count myself as very fortunate to have been able to live out this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

First of all, I would like clear up a few common misconceptions. This was not a climbing competition. I was invited along with 15 other international athletes to promote climbing as a potential Olympic sport through demonstration and initiation for local residents, Olympic athletes, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Youth Olympic Games is the highest level of competition in Olympic sports for athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 (not to be confused with the Junior Olympics, an event held annually in the United States). In order to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games, you must be ranked amongst the top youth competitors in the world in your respective sport, as well as not having competed in any Olympic event previously. The 2014 Games in Nanjing was only the third Youth Olympic Games to date, the first two having been in Singapore (Summer 2010) and Innsbruck (Winter 2012).

The initial aim of Youth Olympic Games was to accomplish several things: lower childhood obesity levels, foster a growing Olympic movement, and increase cultural awareness in youth athletes across the globe. The program was announced in 2007 by the former president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, who ushered in a new era of Olympians at the inaugural Games in Singapore three years later. The sports featured there and at each successive Games consisted strictly of the events held in their senior Olympic counterpart, which meant climbing had not been a part of the action yet since it was not included in the Olympic program.

Jacques Rogge at the 2001 IOC Session in Moscow.
Climbing has had its share of attempts at Olympic inclusion, beginning with the IOC’s recognition of IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) as an official governing body in 2009. It was demonstrated unofficially in Torino in the 2006 Winter Games, and had initiation sessions at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. In 2013, climbing bid to become an official sport in the 2020 Olympic Games, but the bid was rejected in favor of wrestling, which had been ousted several months earlier.

Following the 2020 bid failure, progress appeared long and slow for the future of our sport. However, after the 2013 IOC Meeting in Buenos Aires, newly appointed IOC President Thomas Bach presented climbing a huge opportunity: to showcase the sport at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing as part of a “Sports Lab” that would offer both exhibition and initiation to the general public and Olympic athletes alike. Included with sport climbing were rollerblading, skateboarding, and a Chinese martial art called Wushu.

President Bach at Sports Lab in Nanjing.
The concept was simple: take four highly popular sports and have professional athletes in each field demonstrate the sport as well as help children try them out for the first time. It would run the entire length of the Games so that athletes who competed towards the end could still have the chance to try the sports out. In addition, the exhibition could provide insight to IOC officials and sponsors as to how popular each sport was from a viewing perspective.

Upon learning that climbing was going to be included in the sports lab, the IFSC set out to create a team of 16 athletes from around the world who could represent sport climbing in Nanjing. Ten countries in addition to the host nation, China, were selected to nominate one male and one female athlete, of which the IFSC Executive Board chose the final team of 8 men and 8 women. When I got the call from USA Climbing that I would be representing the US at the Youth Olympic Games, it was probably the happiest moment of my life.

Prior to my trip, I made a quick visit to two of my favorite companies, Clif Bar and The North Face. Both have supported my climbing career in numerous ways, and it was great to have the opportunity to check out each of their offices and meet the people I had been working online with for years. It was also great to support local Bay Area brands for their continued sustainability and innovation, which we definitely pride ourselves with here in NorCal.

Clif Bar || The North Face
Before I knew it, I was off to China! My parents and brother decided to join me on my adventure, and even took it one step further by making plans to fly to Tibet after watching me climb in Nanjing for a couple days. I had never visited mainland China before (although I did go to Hong Kong when I was 2) so I was pretty excited about experiencing a new part of the world. The plan was to fly into Shanghai and spend a couple days doing some sightseeing with the family before making the 2-hour high-speed rail journey to Nanjing.


When we arrived in Shanghai after a brief stopover in Seoul, we were immediately greeted at the airport by my friend Kai Mu. I met Kai on a climbing trip to Rodellar in 2011, and we had climbed together in Boston while he pursued his master’s degree in engineering management at Tufts University. He moved back to his hometown of Shanghai after he graduated, and was really excited to take us around the city when he found out I would be coming. Needless to say, it was welcoming to see a familiar face after having traveled halfway around the world.

Myself and Kai Mu at center. Two psyched Chinese climbers on the left and right.
The next few days were a whirlwind of exploration. In just two days, we managed to visit the Shanghai History Museum, the Imperial Gardens, the Peace Hotel, a market selling live birds and fish, a couple climbing gyms, and of course some delicious restaurants. Kai even convinced to get us to try some Shanghai delicacies such as pig’s feet, spiced duck blood (had the same consistency as tofu) and stir-fried frog.

The Bund, Shanghai.
Although getting out in the city was great for getting over jetlag, there were several other challenges that China provided. For starters, the Chinese government intentionally blocked most forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and anything Google-related such as Gmail and YouTube. If you ever happen to make a trip to China, I highly recommend getting a VPN (Virtual Private Network), an app that creates a false IP address so that you can use these other applications without any problems. Another issue that I wasn’t prepared for was the subpar air quality, which prevented us from seeing the sun the entire length of the trip. Apart from these minor nuisances, our stay in Shanghai was quite enjoyable.

The day of the opening ceremonies, Kai dropped us off at the train station in Shanghai and we made the speedy trip to Nanjing South Railway Station (the 2nd-largest railway station in the world). Upon arrival, I donned my athlete’s badge, which turned out to be a good idea. Volunteers for the Games spotted us instantly by my badge, grabbed our luggage, and shuttled us into our own private bus to take us to the Mingfa International Hotel, our place of stay for the duration of the Games.

After finally depositing my bags in my room, I ventured down the hall to the conference room to meet my 15 other teammates. I knew several of them from my years of competing, such as my Australian roommate Matt Tsang and Sam Stainton from South Africa, but I was not nearly as acquainted with the others. As soon as I walked in and introduced myself, it was immediately clear why each one of these athletes were chosen for their role. They each represented a major country and mostly spoke different languages, but they were all extremely friendly and excited to meet everyone. We all began chatting excitedly (in English) about recent climbing trips and competitions, animatedly miming beta with great enthusiasm. There was no denying it; each and every person in that room was just as psyched as I was to be there.

IFSC Team, Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Once things had settled down, we had a briefing with the head IFSC officials at the event. Those in attendance included IFSC President Marco Scolaris, VP Debbie Gawrych, Chinese announcer Forrest Liu, the President of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, two sports managers, and two world-cup setters. They went over the expectations of the event and presented us with an extensive wardrobe of IFSC apparel to wear, in addition to a welcome bag full of goodies from the IOC. We changed into our new attire for the evening and headed off to the opening ceremonies.

The ceremonies took place at the Olympic Stadium at the center of town, and turned out to be one of the most spectacular performances I’ve ever witnessed. It was choreographed by visionary director Chen Weiya, the man who was also behind the extraordinary opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Games. One of the highlights of the evening was an act in which about 100 or so performers, attached by cables to a massive crane, were lifted high into the night sky to execute some of the most amazing feats of choreographed movements I’ve ever seen.


IOC President Thomas Bach concluded the ceremonies addressing the athletes to encourage fair play and sharing passion for their sport, which he followed up with by taking a “YOG selfie” onstage with several athletes from various countries. We didn’t realize it at the moment, but the selfie set the precedent for the rest of the games in which thousands of athletes and fans from all over the world snapped photos of themselves with the hashtag #YOGselfie. I’m not too much of a fan of hashtagging myself, but I could definitely appreciate the power that social media had of bringing people together to share their Olympic passion.


Over the next 10 days, my life was completely consumed by the Games. Each day consisted of waking up bright and early to eat breakfast in the hotel’s luxurious dining area, then heading over to the sports lab at 7am to prepare for demonstrations. The sports lab schedule allowed for each of the four sports to have two 30-minute exhibition sessions (one in the morning, one in the afternoon), both sessions followed by a 30-minute initiation period for any local residents to try them out. We had a break in the middle of the day for lunch, but apart from that, we were climbing from 7:30am to 6:30pm.

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Let the games begin.

World Champion Speed Climber Qixin Zhong helping with initiations
During the exhibition sessions, many IOC Executive Board members observed climbing from the viewing area, and it was our job as athletes to explain the different disciplines to them and why climbing would make such a good Olympic sport. One of the major aspects that set climbing apart from other sports is the collaboration between the athletes to read beta during route previews, as well as the sheer verticality of the sport. Furthermore, the motto of the Olympic Games (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”) matched up perfectly to the three disciplines of competition climbing (speed, sport, and bouldering), making climbing easy to integrate into the Games from a marketing perspective.



At the end of every day, there was some time in which the sports lab was closed to the public where Olympic athletes could come participate in sports that were offered. During that time, we also got to try out the other sports, which was a blast. I especially enjoyed rollerblading, which I hadn’t done since I was a little kid. When the sports lab finally closed at 7pm, we would make our way back to the hotel to eat dinner, relax, or go watch some of the Olympic events.

As awesome as all of that was, it wasn’t all fun and games. Our packed daytime schedule left little time for rest, and the fact that we were climbing every day in 40°C weather and high humidity for four to five day stretches ensured we were absolutely exhausted by the end of any given 24-hour period. On top of all that, we had to keep energy in reserve for TV interviews, greeting members of the IOC, and pushing kids up the bouldering wall during initiation sessions.


© 2014 NBC Sports Network

Despite the constant physical exhaustion, we still managed to have a blast on our days off. We explored historical areas in Nanjing, tried out the cultural immersion booths at the Olympic Village, and hung out as a team after a long day at the wall. Being with such a diverse group of athletes was such a unique experience since we were from all over the world, but still had the same passion for climbing and could connect easily with each other. It was much different from being at a competition, since we were supporting each other as teammates in promotion of our sport.


After a couple days of working out the kinks of demonstrations, we faced our biggest challenge yet: the visit of President Bach himself. We all knew that it would be the ultimate test of our skills, since he had personally invited us to be there and could potentially decide the future of sport climbing. Leading up to the day of his arrival, we prepared by splitting up roles evenly between bouldering, sport, and speed. My responsibility was to do the first sport climb and make a dramatic fall near the top, leaving the way clear for my Austrian friend Andi to finish the climb (and throw a bat-hang in the middle) while the President looked on.


When the day finally came, the IOC surprised us by sending previous IOC President Jacques Rogge ahead of President Bach, which meant we got to climb in front of and speak about our sport to two IOC presidents in the same day. It was an experience I know I will never forget.



At long last, our time Nanjing came to an end. With heavy hearts, we bade farewell to all of our new friends at the closing ceremonies, and departed to our home countries the next day. Now that I have had time to reflect on the trip, I can genuinely say that my Olympic journey was the most powerful experience of my lifetime so far, and it allowed me to view climbing with a far broader perspective.

So what does this mean for the future of the sport of climbing? Based on what I've seen, Nanjing could've been the catalyst for climbing’s big breakthrough. If climbing gets admitted as an official Olympic sport, funding would increase significantly across the board, making it more possible to pursue professionally. Additionally, young climbers all over the globe will have a goal to aspire towards from the day they put on their first pair of climbing shoes: standing on top of the podium at the Olympics, a gold medal around their necks and their national anthem resounding clearly for the entire world to see.

However, the most important aspect of the Olympic Games comes from the fundamental concept of the Olympics themselves. The Games stand for more than just excellence in athletic ability; they provide an opportunity for young athletes to share their passion for their sport, meet others from around the world who share that passion, and realize that deep down, we as a human race are not so different from one another after all. If these leaders of the future understand this fundamental idea, the world will be a much better place to live in. For climbing, this global perspective is already ingrained into the culture due to the collaborative nature that sets our sport apart.

Having already been given the chance to experience the Olympics, my biggest goal now is to ensure that the next generation of climbers will have the same opportunity that I had. The current objective is inclusion in the 2024 Games, but given the success of the Sports Lab in Nanjing, we could be seeing it in the Olympics in some form as early as Rio in 2016. Our only option now is to wait and hope for the best outcome. No matter what the case, when our sport gets the break it deserves, I will be there cheering on my fellow climbers as they pursue their Olympic dreams.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Future of Competition Climbing?

The first time I stepped foot in Arco, Italy three years ago for the World Championships, I could immediately sense the historic weight of the location surrounding me. There’s just something magical about it that’s tough to put to words. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Arco is home to the birthplace of modern competition climbing as we know it, beginning with the first Rock Master festival in 1987. At the time, competitors scaled chipped lines in the surrounding limestone cliffs, fabricated by the “setters” specifically for the event. I remember watching footage Lynn Hill and Stefan Glowacz dominating the event and coming to the realization that the sport of competition climbing has come a long ways since then, even for how relatively young the sport is. This realization resonated with me especially strongly after the most recent competition season, where I was really able to see the contrast between the technical, intricate, and very linear style of competition days gone by and the new explosive style that climbing is maturing into.

Arco!
Over the past few months, I’ve transitioned from bouldering competitions to training for sport climbing competitions and outdoor projects. Having finally aged out of the youth circuit, I set my main focus on competing in as many pro-level competitions as possible, finishing out my season in May with the Dominion Riverrock Boulder Bash in Richmond, Virginia. The sheer density of events I competed in was a new personal record, as I completed 13 different competitions (even with skipping Canadian Bouldering Nationals and the Vail World Cup) in just over four months.

Looking back on my season, the biggest takeaway point I’ve noticed is how much the competitions themselves have changed over the course of my climbing career. I started competing in national and international-level competitions in 2002, where I made it to finals at my first-ever Continental Championships in Berkeley, CA. The climbs at that point in time were very technical and rarely included showy or dynamic moves. Since then, competitions have moved steadily a more dynamic style, incorporating 3-dimensional movement and an abundance of features and volumes. Additionally, the next generation of climbers has continued to push standards in ways I’d never thought possible.
Semifinals at the 2003 National Championships in Richmond, VA
Starting with ABS Youth Nationals, the amount of creativity the routesetters produced was unparalleled in a youth climbing event. One problem in the semifinal round featured a drop-down move to a huge volume, which the competitors then had to turn around and hang upside-down to match the finish hold. Only a handful of competitors managed it, but the fact that youth competition climbs are getting to be as exciting as this shows how far they’ve come in the past decade, since youth bouldering competitions only came to prominence in the United States in 2004.

Sydney Trinidad successfully completing "the move".
Photo: Just Fab Photography
Having graduated from the youth bouldering circuit last year, the next logical step for me was to test my abilities in higher-level bouldering competitions. One of the more interesting events I attended was this year’s MIT Open competition, hosted by Central Rock Gym in Watertown. The final climb in finals consisted solely of several jugs separated by a huge gap, which could only be bridged by swinging on an Atomik Bomb. The move was solved in several different ways, ranging from my personal bat-hang beta, Andrew Kim’s campusing beta, and the obvious “wrecking ball” beta that involved wrapping your legs around the rope and swinging wildly.



Another such bouldering event to include futuristic moves this year was the CCS National Championships, where I was able to top out all three climbs in finals for a 2nd-place finish. All three climbs were unique in some way, from a bat-hang finish on problem 1, to a thumbdercling traverse (Tommy Caldwell style) on problem 2, to a Dark Horse-esque double-clutch move on problem 3.

Julian Barker on problem 1
Photo: USA Climbing
Problem 3
Photo: Cole Alcock
Even World Cups have grown accustomed to this new style, with many problems on the circuit this year featuring some ridiculous double-clutches, dynos, and running-jump starts. One of the most intriguing of these was final problem 3 in Toronto for the men, which Guillaume Glairon Mondet solved by sitting on a volume in order to match the finish hold. His flash of this problem would eventually be enough to secure a World Cup victory at that stage. These displays of originality from the setters were yet another example of the progression of competition climbing.

GG Mondet topping out problem 3 in Toronto
One of my favorite events of the year is perhaps the most futuristic model of competition climbing in the world: the Dominion Riverrock Boulder Bash in Richmond, Virginia. Set on a steel cage instead of a wall, the setters suspended giant volumes (designed by master volume-builder Brent Quesenberry) at intervals up the 25-foot behemoth to create a climbing experience that has to be seen to believe. Bouldering between the volumes opens up an entirely new realm of competition climbing, where the 3-dimensional movement between the features allows for extremely dynamic and gymnastic moves between holds.

Riverrock!
One final example of the new style that competition climbing is heading towards is this year’s Ring of Fire series. The series is based out of the Central Rock Climbing Gyms here in the Northeast with Shane Messer organizing and directing the comps. The events this year embodied the new competition style perfectly, from including some of the coolest volume sequences I’ve ever been on, dynamic yet intricate routesetting, and allowing the younger generation to display their impressive talent.

The series was broken down into three competitions: two qualifying events and the championship round. The winner of each of the first two rounds received an automatic bye into the finals of the championship round. In round 1, I was pitted head-to-head with 14-year old superstar Kai Lightner in a speed-lead superfinal on the women’s final route. Kai destroyed the route, besting my time by a staggering 25 seconds (silly me for thinking I could climb fast). In the second round I was able to squeak out a victory, ensuring my spot in the championship round finals.

Volume action in Round 1 finals
Photo: Garrick Kwan
Round 3 turned out to be the most impressive of all, with Kai and 13-year old Ashima Shiraishi both winning out over heavy favorites such as Delaney Miller, Daniel Woods, and Vasya Vorotnikov. In fact, Delaney and Ashima both topped their finals route, so they were put on the men’s route as a tiebreaker, where they effortlessly out-climbed nearly the entire men’s category. This incredible display of talent and skill from such young stars firmly cemented the next generation as the one to look out for as they continue to push the boundaries of our sport.



Looking into the future, it is difficult to discern where competition climbing will go. Sport climbing attempted (and failed) to become a sport in the 2020 Olympic Games, but is being included as a demonstration sport at the Youth Olympic Games later this year in Nanjing, China. I was fortunate to be selected by the IFSC as the sole US representative, which means I will have the unique opportunity to see and shape what direction the sport is headed.


With all of these major changes making waves in the future of competition climbing, we must ask ourselves what comes next. From what I’ve seen, climbing competitions are moving away from the static, technical climbing style to dynamic, explosive, and 3-dimensional movement that has come to define the next generation of competitions and the group of young crushers that excel at them.

What will climbing comps look like in 10 years? 15? 20? Will climbing competitions become so disjointed from the actual sport of rock climbing that athletes will never once need to set foot on outdoor rock to excel in competition? It’s certainly a real possibility. The most extreme end of the spectrum here can be looked at as NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, an extreme obstacle course that climbers have started to excel at in recent years. Many people devote their lives to training for this course, much to the same extent of dedication climbers have towards climbing. Is this a positive or negative for the climbing community at large? I can’t say I know for sure.



One thing does remain certain: no matter where the sport of competition climbing goes, we still will have our ancestry deeply rooted in the mountains. Beginning with the very first days of competition in Arco, the sport of competition climbing has evolved over time, bringing with it an explosive new style that utilizes 3-dimensional movement to challenge the next generation of climbers. However, climbing still holds the same intrinsic appeal from one generation to the next. Whether it be Lynn Hill gracefully ascending the limestone cliffs of Italy or 13-year old Ashima Shiraishi taking down male competitors twice her age at the Ring of Fire Championships, the spirit of climbing endures, one move at a time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Comp Season: Understanding the Importance of Failure

With ABS Nationals just having come to a close, I want to address a subject most people are keen to avoid: failure. Failure is something that we avoid at all costs in all aspects of life, let alone competition climbing. However, I believe there are many important lessons to be learned from failure, especially when it comes to dealing with high-pressure situations such as in climbing competitions.

This past month and a half, I have had the opportunity to compete in a major pro-level bouldering competition on east coast 6 weekends out of 7. So far, almost every one of these comps have been in a different state, (and sometimes country) and it has been a ton of fun to travel to these different locations to climb. Looking back on it, the process was mentally and physically taxing, but overall a great chance to test myself before competing at Nationals.

Dark Horse Finals!
Photo: Vince Schaefer
However, instead of doing well under pressure like I have been able to do in the past, I did extremely poorly at most of the events, placing near the bottom in finals for multiple comps in a row. This came as a combination of preparing poorly, screwing up sequences, and letting mistakes get to my head. I felt dejected, frustrated, and largely dissatisfied with my performances. I experienced what no athlete wants to experience: Failure.

Coming into the season, I’d just come off a successful trip to Hueco Tanks, so I felt physically strong and was psyched to start training for comps. I also started an engineering internship in Boston instead of taking classes, so rather than the regular college problem sets, midterms, and labs to prepare for, I found myself heading straight to the gym right after work, stress-free. I immediately jumped into a training program I devised for myself, five days per week with a comp every Saturday. It was great to focus primarily on fine-tuning my climbing and not have to worry about school for a change.

Sending Rumble in the Jungle (V12), Hueco Tanks
Photo: Colin Barnes
One of the best things about living on the east coast is that there are comps. A lot of them. ALL. THE. TIME. It got to a point where I had to decide which comp out of several to go to on the same weekend for multiple weekends in a row. The final schedule I decided upon was:

January 11th: Power Struggle (Connecticut)
January 18th: Winter Burn (Phildelphia)
January 25th: Tour de Bloc (Montreal, Canada)
February 1st: Dark Horse (Boston)
February 15th: Heart Burn (Philadelphia)
February 21st: ABS Nationals (Colorado Springs)

Competing at Tour de Bloc in Montreal
Photo: Guy Pomerleau
The season started off decently well with a second-place finish at Power Struggle, but Winter Burn and Tour de Bloc went extremely poorly. I decided to try to prepare differently for Dark Horse, and even though I felt I did better, it didn’t stop me from bombing the last climb in finals and placing last. After three disappointing results in a row, I decided to take a break for a weekend and came back with a solid fourth-place finish at Heart Burn. Now that I finally have the chance to reflect on the past month, I came to a couple different conclusions on what I learned. These were all pretty obvious once I thought of them, but it helped thinking each one through and attempting to understand how they affected my climbing.

1: Don’t base your success (or failure) on how other people do.

As hard as it may be, trying not to base your own performance on how other people do is absolutely key in order to succeed. If you lay down the absolute best performance of your life, but still do not come out on top, those people deserved to beat you that day. The results may not reflect your personal desire to do well, but it is important that you realize the true value of your efforts. Conversely, if you win a comp but you know didn't perform at your absolute best, you should still be openly happy with your performance, but reflect on what you could've done better for future events. I've found that the true victories are the ones that don't come easy. I experienced both sides of this scenario recently, as I felt I could have climbed better at Power Struggle, but I know that my absolute best effort at Dark Horse Round 3 still wasn't enough to see me through to the finals.

Qualifiers at Dark Horse Round 3
Photo: Garrick Kwan
2: Always give yourself every possible opportunity to succeed.

Competitions can be broken down into three parts: training, competing, and performing. The critical part of these three things is that you do everything within your power to physically and mentally prepare for each one. In training for climbing comps, it's crucial to train for any scenario (slabs, overhangs, pinches, dynos, crimps, dropdowns, etc). Avoiding one of these simply because you don't like it or believe you don't need to train it is a recipe for disaster in the heat of competition. The best climber is the most well-rounded climber. While competing, only focus on the aspects you can control: getting a good amount of sleep, warming up properly, making sure you have enough water, and so on. If you find yourself differing this process between competitions, create a routine and stick with it. Everything else, such as where you fall in the running order, the style of climbs, and how other people do on them is beyond your control and therefore you should try to put them out of your mind. As for the performing aspect, letting go of mistakes between climbs, rounds, or competitions is easily the hardest and most valuable thing you can do. At recent comps, I found myself criticizing myself for mistakes I had made on previous climbs, so I was unable to progress much further on the next one without doubting my abilities. Perceiving failure as but a dip in forward progression is essential for success in the long run.

Figuring out the beta at Winter Burn
Photo: Sean Aronow
The final and by far most important thing I learned was:

3: Have fun!

This one should totally be a no-brainer, but it's often difficult to focus on having fun when the heat of the competition is turned up. I realized at one of the earlier comps this season that I was so focused on doing well during the event that I legitimately forgot to have fun. This is the one true failure you can have as an athlete. If you don't love what you're doing, why do it? Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that even if I climb badly, I still am having fun by pursuing my true passion in life. And isn't that what life's all about?

Having fun while finishing last at Dark Horse.
Photo: Garrick Kwan
To conclude, I thought it would be appropriate to include a quote I found from one of the greatest basketball players in history, Michael Jordan. He sums up the point of overcoming failure much better than I ever could, and it has definitely helped me define my perception of failure and success.

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

-MJ