Many people, far more articulate and knowledgeable than I, have already written about the phenomenon that is Lance Armstrong. So why should I, someone who is not a cyclist and one who freely confesses to know very little of the sport or its history, write about Lance Armstrong? It is really a simple reason. I am in complete and utter awe of what he has overcome and accomplished. Not just this weekend but over the past 10 years of his life. Lance Armstrong comes as close to anyone I can think of in our world today who is worthy of being called a true miracle. Perhaps, though it sounds unintentionally cruel, we could easily call him a “freak of nature.” I think he really is. I don’t think there has been anything built like him – body, mind, desire, and fire – and I doubt there will be anyone like him any time soon.
He was born to be an athlete. That we know from his youth and his competitiveness. Somewhere, somehow a pilot light was lit in this young man that never went out. I am not even sure it has even flickered. He was running distance races against older men – and winning – at age 10 or 11. He became an age-category champion tri-athlete in his late teens. But it was only when he made the fateful decision to concentrate on cycling that the full burner kicked in. That flame hasn’t gone off since.
He was on the path to being a world-class cyclist in his early twenties. He was known as a bit of a cocky…alright, obnoxious jerk as well. Well, maybe not “a bit of” either. Just like everything else about Lance, he was a complete cocky, obnoxious jerk. Then, the great equalizer came to visit Mr. Cocky.
He was diagnosed as having widely metastatic testicular cancer. Mets to the lung and brain. He had, according to even the optimists, a 25% chance of being cured. That was the doctors’ opinions. Mr. Cocky had a different opinion. Like the cycling challenges that lay ahead, he kicked the cancer’s ass. And, then, much to the bewilderment of the world cycling community – and, especially, France – he decided to kick some more ass.
After this weekend, he has accomplished something no one has ever accomplished. The Tour de France is a 104 year old event. There have been several multiple winners (even American Greg LeMond, someone Lance admits inspired him, worn 3 times) but no one has won the event more than 5 times. Lance Armstrong has now won the event 7 consecutive times.
The man is not of our planet. He has handled all the notoriety and adoration of the world and his country with grace and dignity. He has championed cancer research and has raised millions of dollars for the Live Strong Foundation. He is a walking, talking inspiration to everyone who confronts the horrors of this disease. I can’t imagine anyone who would be a better answer to any young person who, after being diagnosed with cancer says, “Why should I fight this? What chance do I have?” Here kid. Read this guy’s story.
I can’t imagine what may lay ahead for Mr. Armstrong now that his racing days are over. I hope he, unlike so many other athletes, can enjoy his time away from the peloton (see? I did know that word!). I have no doubts, though, that he will accomplish more and, quite possibly, even greater things to add to his resume. He would be a natural as a politician, whichever party he would chose to represent. I can’t bring myself to think of anything this man would fail at (except acting; I have seen some commercials) if he applies himself with the same passion he has used in his sports career. He is one of those rare people who are driven to succeed. And, regardless of the pursuit, I would not bet against him.
So, despite my lack of knowledge of the sport and my inadequate skills at expressing what I really want to say, I say this: Lance Armstrong, you amaze me. I have seen a lot of things in sports and the “real” world but I have never seen anything that left me in total, unadulterated awe of a single person’s physical abilities. You, sir, are awe-inspiring. I wish you well, no matter what you might decide to take on as your next challenge. You have given all of us a reason to believe that anything is possible.
After all, if our human gene pool can make you, it can make people capable of truly great things.