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Olympian: What a postponed Olympics can teach us about uncertainty & hope

US Olympic sailor Carol Newman Cronin, who competed in Athens in 2004, knows what it’s

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US Olympic sailor Carol Newman Cronin

like to be an athlete in uncertain times. 

On September 12, 2001, while on her way to a regatta in preparation for the Games, she “sailed” right past the still-smoking remains of the Twin Towers. The whole world had shifted on its axis, paralyzed with shock and fear. Yet Carol sailed on. 

Sailors, she points out, are uniquely trained to adapt to a constant barrage of uncertainty.  Sticking to her schedule right after 9/11 was her way of holding onto something normal so she could be mentally prepared to chart her course—whatever it might be. She also knew it was her only way to offer hope to her many followers.

Now, amid the shock and devastation of the Coronavirus crisis and Olympic postponement, Cronin, whose 4th novel Ferry to Cooperation Island releases in June, recalls this familiar message of hope : “When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.”

Aspiring Olympians from all sports are taught to recalibrate disappointments into opportunity— and so must we all.  Drawing on her experience as an Olympian and sailor, Cronin offers these nuggets of wisdom that everybody—athletes, fans and citizens everywhere—can find hope in right now:

  • Keep your bow pointing toward the mark - Focus on what really matters rather than the white noise of the news cycle.
  • Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t - We have no say in the weather or the wind or the virus, but we can control our own reactions to each. Heed the warnings, stay home,  help stop the spread.
  • Make your own luck - Change means opportunity, and quick reaction times will help us adjust.
  • Win the regatta, not the race - Don’t get caught up in petty squabbles; be patient, strive to cooperate and take the long view.