This is a story of a brave American hero Lindsey Carmichael, 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist archer.
Hailing from Lago Vista, Texas, Lindsey has McCune Albright Syndrome, a disease that creates severe weak spots in her bones. After struggling for years in and out of wheelchairs and therapy, Lindsey has attained a goal she has been working on since she started archery in a wheelchair at the age of 13. Now at 23 she can claim an Olympic victory. Her story is an inspiration, not only for the physically handicapped, but for all people who think they can’t.
Like that “Little Train That Could”,Carmichael persevered through really difficult times to go from 12th US qualifier to world Bronze medalist. Lindsey, You Rock! You are an inspiration to us all.
Listen to her own words, they brought tears to my eyes.
“What words can I possibly share with you, to convey the absolute madness and
melodrama of today’s two matches? The crushing self-defeat at the end of my
semi-finals shootoff. The emotional 180 I had to pull in order to compete
well in the bronze match. The sublime moment of victory. The reeling
out-of-body experience of the medal ceremonies. The constant high that I’ve
been on ever since.
It is well past two in the morning and I’m still wired. It’s strange to
think that at the beginning of this very long day, I did not have a clue
what pain and pride awaited me. I did not have a medal. And that perhaps is
the strangest partâ€”this thing that I’m still wearing around my neck, it has
a weight to it, a gravity of its own. I have grown so attached to it in the
hours since it was put around my neck, that I find it easy to imagine that
I’ve had it all along.
To begin with, I was well rested. Practice shots felt really good, really
focused.. My first match against the top-ranked Korean archer began with an
unusual calm in the pit of my stomach, which I can scarcely account for. I
was nervous all right, but it was easier to control with some steady
breathing routines. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of the
match. I wish I could give you a play-by-play, but all I really remember was
that I was adjusting my sight a lot without much change to show for it, very
frustrating. By the time the match came to a close, I was down a few points,
and trying to finish strong. My opponent had a weak shot at the end, which
opened the door for me. We tied with scores of 101.
In archery, ties are decided by up to three shootoffs. Ours was determined
fairly quickly. The Korean lady faltered again, shooting a seven. I can
remember thinking, “The door is wide open! Just shoot a strong shot and
you’ve got this!” I waited for my 10-second comfort zone, drew back, andâ€¦
well, I don’t really know what caused me to letdown with mere seconds left
on the clock. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps it was confusion. Perhaps it
was abject terror.
Well, whatever the cause, the result was pretty heartbreaking. I did make
the shot, in roughly four seconds. Unfortunately, I shot a completely
inadequate six. Tears leapt to my eyes and I felt my throat close up
immediately, as if a tiger had attacked my jugular. I couldn’t move for a
few moments, couldn’t do anything but stand there stunned with my hopes half
shattered at my feet and knowing it was my fault they were broken.
Naturally, because life is mad and sport is cruel, within mere minutes of
this drama, I was escorted off Court B, and to the other side of the venue
to Court A for the bronze medal match.
If nothing else, I am incredibly proud of my recovery today. I went
from absolte self-dejection to focused and ready to shoot to win a medal,
all within the space of minutes. As soon as I came off that field, I felt my
face crumple into sobs. As we entered the back tunnel, I forced them out in
quick succession, drawing out my tears as if I were squeezing a lemon with a
hand full of cuts. It hurt, but it was what I needed to do. Sort of like a
field dressing is a quick and dirty job of something that ought to be done
in a hospital by a professional? I crammed an hour-long therapy session into
the space of minutes, without asking our sports psychologist to help talk me
through it. When I came out of the other end, I had composed myself and
wiped away the tears. I locked up the memory of the letdown and subsequent
crushing defeat, and stuffed it into the back of my head with a “no touchie”
sign on it. With the bad emotions drained off, I knew some measure of
calmness. Even as I felt a fuzzy emptiness creep through me, I desperately
stuffed myself full of determination. No time for stupid thoughts about what
I didn’t doâ€”don’t think about it, just focus, just keep focusing on the here
and the now and the incredible arrows I’m about to shoot. I need to win this
medal. I can’t let up. I have to bring it back.
All this took the space of minutes. By the time I set foot on the
crowd-packed Court A, I was able to invoke a genuinely-felt winning smile
and a few waves for the crowd. I even made eye-contact with some friends and
family, instead of hanging my head in shame or making sheepish gestures.
I am so proud of that turn-around. Our sports psychologist told me later
that he’d never witnessed anything like it. Which I am going to take as a
compliment to my recovery ability, and not a consideration of the amount of
drama I always manage to bring about.
I did really well on the bronze medal match. It gives me shivers to think
about it, and I don’t even remember details, just that I kept my focus and
shot well. The only part I really remember was the final arrow. I’d been
keeping my eyes on my clock, and my friendly little dot. This was fine,
except that the clocks had been changed, and moved off to the sides. So now
when I glanced at my timer, my eyes happened to graze across the bottom of
the electronic scoreboard, which helpfully read “5 to win,” meaning that I
needed to score a measly five or higher in order to walk away with my first
So, yeah. No pressure.
I really wish I’d finished with a ten, but I shot a nice, boring eight. I
even gave a small shrug, it was so anticlimactic. Then the whistle blew and
it hit me like a bucket of happy-water, drenching me from the top of my head
to the tip of my toes. Holy COW, I won a medal! Me! Little Miss ranked
12thin the Qualifier. Little Miss “I’ve had target panic so bad that
past few years I’ve had to convince myself repeatedly that the target isn’t
going to bite me.” Little Miss “I had to lay out all last summer because my
back hurt so much to shoot that I couldn’t get more than a dozen arrows off
in a single practice.” Me! I had a medal! Did the sky turn green? Did they
get the wrong person? How is this possible?
I raised the bow up to acknowledge my victory, and the moment of exultation
I felt was just as sublime as the moment at Opening Ceremonies. It took me
the better part of five or ten minutes to truly understand what had
happened, and my coaches actually had to order me to sit down before I fell
down. I think if our head coach hadn’t been reminding me to breathe, I might
have forgotten that part, as well.
I had about ten or fifteen minutes to change and touch up my makeup. The
medal ceremony took a while to prepare, and while we were waiting, I was
just buzzing along like a bee in a poppy fieldâ€”absolutely bouncing with
The medal ceremony itself went off without a hitch, although there was a
moment when I first stepped up to my podium that I could have sworn I was
about to pass out. I got very light-headed and lost orientation for a few
scary-exhilarating seconds, but I managed to not faint or fall over, so I
think I did well overall. I even remembered to put my hand on my heart, even
though they weren’t playing the US National Anthem. I don’t even remember
what Korea’s song sounds like, I was so busy trying to assimilate the new
addition to my jewelry collection.
I am so proud to be here, representing my sport and my country to the best
of my ability. I truly cannot put into words what this medal means to me.
One thing is for sure, though. It’s not leaving my side for a week or two.
Mine, no touchie! 😉
I won’t say that I don’t feel a small regret at that six during the
shootoff. I could have a silver or a gold right now, if it weren’t for that
shot. I know I am capable of far greater things than a six.
But maybe that’s enough. Bronze is the hardest medal to win, the one that is
the most earned. I worked hard for this thing, and I don’t think I would
trade it for anything else. Besides, I really had to fight for this. That
always makes it better, in the end. Is there anything truly worth having, if
you don’t sacrifice some part of yourself to obtain it? I gave up so much, I
fought hard, and here it is.