Every now and then, when the stars align, perhaps, there are moments in sport that transcend time, place and actions; moments that transport all who witness them to a reality so far removed from life’s daily struggles that, even for just a moment, all seems right, at least in this sacred place where perfection is achieved, body, mind and soul.
It is here that the human spirit is touched at a depth only such moments can reach. It is here, that pain and sorrow can be wrapped in joy and harmony.
It is here that two young athletes, carrying the weight of agonizing loss, took us to from Greensboro last week.
Perhaps this sounds a bit dramatic. That’s simply because it was.
Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin took the ice at the Coliseum and everyone knew the next four and a half minutes meant so much more than a National Title, more than their first trip to Worlds, and more than redemption from missing the Olympic team last season.
This one was for Mom.
While some elements may not have been as technically demanding as others, what made it all count was the passion in every single step. Every movement was important. Every facial expression so genuine. Every look between the two so necessary in order to balance the emotional strain with the demanding routine.
For those few minutes, not only did the crowd gathered at the Coliseum stop – so did the nation.
People who were there said you could have heard a pin drop as they made their way through the program. Even on television, it was clear that they were so invested in every second that not even a bobble on a throw triple loop could break them out of their own spell. From start to finish, they were in a world all their own where John allowed himself to feel, allowed himself to share, and Caitlin gave every ounce of herself to help lighten his burdened heart.
Knowing the story about his mother’s passing, and how important this skate was to them (plus, being big fans on a personal level), I was in tears when they took the ice. And the tears didn’t stop flowing until after Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig’s scores flashed, and John and Caitlin realized they’d done it.
In all reality, they didn’t stop until after the press conference on Icenetwork.com, because both skaters were just as emotional then! Even the other two medaling teams understood the power of that moment.
Amanda Evora said it was tough to skate after them because not only had the new Champions made the moment their own, but they wanted to be there for John and Caitlin to support them. But, she said, the best way they could honor them was to skate their own personal best, as well.
On both the NBC broadcast as well as the Icenetwork feed, the announcers sat silent throughout the performance.
That’s how you know it’s captivating.
And afterwards, Peter Caruthers noted that, “Having a sense of purpose in skating is the most important thing you can do.”
That, John and Caitlin did, through and through.
The victory was in their sights, no doubt. But what really mattered was living up to the moment his mom had always wanted him to have.
In a world that runs at 100 miles an hour all day every day, moments that actually make us stop are rare.
And in a skating world that has become so much about levels and execution and components down to the hundredth of a point because of one spin rotation or one extra turn in a step sequence, moments that go so far beyond the numbers to this level of emotional healing and satisfaction are even more rare.
As a sports fan, there are those few moments I’ll always remember. John and Caitlin, your moment last week is now one of them.
Also touching to note – one of John’s mom’s final wishes was for John and his good friend Ryan Bradley to keep skating.
Both are now National Champions.
Looks like Mom was on to something.