|Posted by Christina on February 12, 2017 at 6:20 PM|
There’s something romantic and almost like a fairytale about the type of person who shows up out of nowhere with little to no experience and dominates the competition. As humans, we are drawn to the idea that talent – an inherited ability that we don’t work for – is the key to an athlete’s success. We love to celebrate and praise the people we see who are “naturals.” But what if there’s more to the story? What if winning and exceling is actually the product of lots of hard work and even lots of failure. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth challenges the American ideal placed on talent and natural ability and explores her findings that effort is the greatest factor in achievement.
Kim Chance is a steller example of a person with true grit. Kim’s win at the 2017 Cyclocross National Championships this year was a compellation of years of passion and perseverance on the bike. Kim entered the bike-racing scene as a lifelong athlete and competitor in motocross, track, gymnastics, cheerleading and competitive aerobics. Sure, she had some natural ability, fitness and stamina that helped her excel from the start but it wasn’t all top steps and stellar seasons. After moving up into the higher category as a mountain bike racer, she had a rude awakening on the 2nd and 3rd laps of the longer mountain bike races. had been easy to hold the faster pace for the shorter races but now she had to maintain that speed for two and three times the distance while chasing faster women. Kim didn’t let this discourage her and honed her handling skills and improved her speed throughout the whole race.
The biggest setback of her racing career happened in April 2008 when she crashed during a group ride and suffered multiple fractures in her spine. Her first doctor told her the injury was inoperable and that it would be best to sell the bike and find a safer sport. Anyone without grit would have given up at this point but Kim got a second opinion and within 6 months she was back on the bike.
Kim has lined up at mountain bike nationals and cyclocross nationals many times over the past several years with good finishes but never the top step. Rather than becoming discouraged or disappointed because she wasn’t taking home the jersey, Kim was able to celebrate the things she did well and learned from the experiences. This year, she came into nationals prepared physically and mentally. She had completed a great season, free of major injuries. She had benefited from the tough Texas cross courses and from throwing herself into the Open field which meant far fewer podiums and getting her butt kicked by the faster women. While it wasn’t the easy path, her willingness to fail and be challenged helped prepare her for Nationals.
Kim was always daddy’s girl. Her father’s passing this past year was another hard life challenge that she had to face. He was on the forefront of her mind that day as she prepared to race, tucking his American Indian ID card under her jersey and reminding herself why she was racing. “I thought to myself about who has given me the ability to do what I do and decided I’m gonna do this one for dad. I know he’s watching and how proud of me he would be if I won a national championship.” Kim became teary as she recounted crossing the finish line well ahead of second place and raising her hand to the sky in a gesture to God and to her dad – “this one’s for you.”
Years of hard work, commitment, and perseverance finally paid off for Kim as reality set in when she stepped onto the top step of the podium with the stars and stripes jersey. One dream may have been achieved but Kim isn’t finished racing. Her eye is set on mountain bike nationals. “Racing gives me a purpose and drive in life to do something besides taking out the trash and paying the bills. Why would I retire? I want to go win another national championship!”