One of the perks of starting this series is researching into the inspirations of my readers and either learning about someone who is truly admirable or finding a story in the lives of someone I might have known before but never truly understood. Sometimes the story is tinged with dark humour, sometimes it’s relatable, but it is always moving in some way, even if it’s just a little bit.
This week’s inspiration was volunteered by my brother, Neil, a law student who takes rowing very seriously. So it came with little surprise to me when he nominated his rowing idol Kim Brennan, who won the women’s single scull at the 2017 Rio Olympics and who also happens to be a lawyer. How could one find so fitting a role model??
My first introduction to her was a youtube video; a replay of her rowing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She moved swiftly and consistently, the muscles in her arms bulging and making the unable-to-do-a-single-pull-up me very envious. But beyond that, I didn’t understand the finer points of rowing and while I knew how hard it must physically be to compete on an Olympic level, I couldn’t really relate. But because I’ve always enjoyed doing portraits of people I feel connected to, I did some further research into her story.
Kim has always been an athlete but she didn’t take up rowing until she was 20. Prior to taking up rowing she was actually a sprinter and a hurdler who was competing on a professional level. Going by how focused athletes are, it was hard to see how one can transition so dramatically from a sporting arena concentrated on the lower-body strength to another arena that primarily uses the upper-body. What made this 180 pivot?
A devastating injury would be the answer. At 19 years of age she was told that her desired sporting career was over. What a thing to go through! It would be like a doctor telling me I’ve damaged some nerves in my hands and I can’t draw with any level of finesse anymore, as a teenager I would have thought it was the worst day of my life and at the time Kim thought exactly that. But now looking back and reflecting on the depth of emotional despair she had felt at that point in time, it has become her source of strength, it has become the best part for her.
It has given her not only the opportunity to find a new sport to go into but also the perspective for any future failures and dark pits of emotions. It’s something that once experienced and lived through becomes a nourishing well that one can constantly dip back into as a reminder that they can get through their current obstacle and come out stronger.