The big event

Sam was so nervous! His heart was pounding and his legs felt like jelly. He swallowed hard. He knew that soon the moment would come…

For many weeks Sam had been training for this one show, this one event, this one big prize. Winning the championship at the National Championships would be the greatest triumph of his life, so every last minute had been spent in careful preparation.

He remembered the exercises, the endurance training, the sprints and, of course, the practice jumps. Time and time again, on the familiar field near his home, the routines had been rehearsed and the movements polished. “Come on, Sam!” his trainer had encouraged him. “You can do it! Let’s try going just a little bit higher.”

All of this was on top of the earlier years of training and preparation. Participating in events at local events (after his early talent and promise was identified) had been tremendous fun. He had always loved the crowd’s applause as he entered the arena, the “holding-their-breath” silence just before his big leap, and the mighty cheer as he cleared the barrier and landed safely.

But this…this was going to be something else. This was of a different order of importance.

Sam felt a pat on his back. He gave a confident shake of his head and began striding out of the tunnel into the arena. Almost deafened by the wall of sound that met him, Sam kept his eyes looking firmly and determinedly ahead of him. Nothing could distract him now.

Because of the size of the event, it was being held in the enormous stadium built for the 2012 London Olympics. It was a long way to the middle of the park and it seemed to Sam that this was the longest walk of his life. He was desperate to run, but knew he must not.

“What will happen if it all goes wrong?” a nagging voice inside his head asked him. “What if you fall?”

“Come on, Sam! Get a grip!” He spoke to himself firmly. “You can do it! And you will.”

Sam was the final competitor. The hooter sounded and he was off.

While trotting round the ring, he gradually built-up speed and easily took the lower fences in his stride before approaching the big one. The high jump. The championship fence. None of the others had achieved this height – one more huge leap and he would be a champion.

Summoning up all his strength, and timing his leap to the split-second, he gathered himself and rocketed upwards. Up and up, higher and higher. His legs paddled the air to reach those final centimetres, those final millimetres that would bring success.

And there it was!

Strangely, Sam could not remember what happened in the next few minutes. Yes, he knew he had won and he knew the crowd and all of his supporters were cheering with delight. But it was as if he could see nothing and hear nothing. Inside he just had this overwhelming, warm feeling of relief and deep, deep, joy. Later, the red rosette and gold medal were presented – but they didn’t mean too much to Sam. He was glad to have won, of course, but prizes had never been of any significance to him.

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