Perceptions of success

Farmville Enterprise April 11, 2018

At the Levels 6-10 state gymnastics championship held in Greenville last month a friend noted a coach there who he believed was an Olympian. I had thought the same thing for years until I read recently that Kristie Phillips was the second alternate to the 1988 team and never even got to travel to Seoul, despite being touted on a 1986 Sports Illustrated cover as “The New Mary Lou.” Our daughter, through years of competitive gymnastics, often rotated events with girls from KPAC (Kristie Phillips Athletic Center) and was always graciously included in their group. Phillips was particularly friendly and encouraging. The sad thing was that for many years as an older teenager and young adult she felt like a failure, although most gymnastics fans considered her one of the top U.S. gymnasts ever. She placed first in the all-around at every domestic competition she entered from 1985-1987, competing at one meet with a broken wrist. At ages 13, 14 and 15 she was the national champion in her age division but at 16 at the Olympic trials fell short, many say due to prejudicial judging and the politics of the sport. “I sacrificed my whole life for this one thing and to have it taken away just crushed me, because I knew I had earned it,” she said. “I was devastated for years.” She battled anorexia for quite a while and got out of the sport, only to make an almost unheard-of comeback to elite gymnastics at the age of 27.  In 1999 she was named USA Gymnastics Sportswoman of the Year, went on to place 24th all-around at the 2000 Nationals and then retired. At some point along the way Phillips, with the help of her now-husband, realized that she was certainly not a failure but that she had spent a lot of time doing things for herself and basking in the spotlight. “I lived my life for me for many, many years.” In opening her gym in Statesville she has found great fulfillment in helping children and youth achieve a good, healthy balance between athletics, school and “real life.” Judging from the five-star reviews of her gym, she is achieving her goal. At the state meet it was pure joy to watch Phillips’ reaction after the bar dismount of one of her gymnasts who obviously struggled with this event which requires so much upper body strength and tends to give petite girls an advantage. The gymnast must have performed one of her personal best bar routines but still scored two points below most of the competitors. Witnessing the jumping up and down, plus cheering and hugging from Phillips one would have thought the gal had won gold. God has given us all different talents and success is not often best defined in the way the world might lead us to define it. How we encourage and help others is much more important than any trophies or accolades we might win. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and people. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:3-6)


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