Wednesday, October 10, 2001 - Perspective
Phil's XC Journal #9

- By: Phil Villeneuve

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone,

I just had a thought. Is it possible that in order to achieve that high level of success, whether it be geared towards athletics or life in general, that you need to have a few screws loose! I'm not saying all successful individuals deserve to be admitted to the loony bin (although I know that some of you might disagree) but it seems that the few that have reached the top have an excess of that gene called 'craziness'. I'll explain with a few examples.

I've had this Muhammad Ali 'Skills, Brains and Guts' videotape in my house for a few years now. I have no idea where it came from but that hasn't stopped me from watching it every once in a while to admire Cassius Clay's awesome lip powered, punching speed. Last night, my friend Donald remarked on how you would have to be a bit of an 'extremist', to reach the height of a career such as Ali's. To put it in laymen terms, he was a bit of a Wacko! You just have to watch his video to see how he played with his opponents, the media, friends and enemies to win them over. No other boxer in history has ever duplicated the mind games he played with his opponents. He would often show up at a challenger's gym and taunt him as well as the crowd just to get under their skin. His famous line 'I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee' depicted his amazing capabilities to recite poems (most of the time off the top of his head) in his typical loud humor to get the edge he required to win.

Another interesting subject is Albert Einstein. I am reminded of an old French quote that says: "Le genie mene a la folie" (Don't worry here comes the translation...) This basically means that genius leads to craziness (makes a little more sense in French).

Now I'm not saying that Einstein was crazy, in fact he was a brilliant human being and probably remains as one of the smartest men in the world. His knowledge of Sciences changed the landscape of how man thought. But in order to reach such greatness in a field that demanded immense concentration and knowledge, one would have to disassociate himself from reality in order to think clearly. How many times have you heard the expression describing a scientist as being 'crazed or mad'? What makes these men geniuses seems to cost them a few marbles along the way. When I look closer to home I don't have to go far to see the same trend reappear. Everyday I train amongst skiers that want to bring the best out of themselves. They are willing to punish their body day in and day out to reach that feeling of invincibility and to reach the top of the podium. Is it normal to want to hurt yourself, to actually look forward to a race where you absolutely know that it will cause physical damage to your muscles and body? Now I would never consider myself as 'crazy or nuts' for doing the sport I love but I do admit that my lifestyle might seem a bit odd to Mr. Joe Neighbour.

I guess I can sort of relate to the public's perception of seeming a bit 'off' by looking no further than my own brother's actions. He pulled into my driveway at 7am last week. "Where on earth did he come from?" I asked, as I stared squinty eyed through my bedroom window at his mangy looking, completely mud covered loaded car, broken passenger side mirror and dented side panel. I knew that he had been doing some brushing work in Northern BC for the past month in order to pay for his winter climbing in the States. As it turns out, he had worked his last 10hr day, packed up and left the camp at 7pm that night to head back to Canmore. About 50k out of Prince-George, BC he narrowly missed a giant moose (ever seen a moose that wasn't when it's 10m in front of you in the pitch black going 120kph!) which fortunately for him decided to only hip check his car ripping the mirror and putting a few new dents in the side panel. He explained to me that staying awake for the next 3 hrs was not a problem! After grabbing a few Z's in Jasper, he made the rest of the trip to Canmore where he showed up at my doorstep with a huge grin smelling like "I haven't showered in five days!" Fabulous! Just what I needed. He spent the day drinking nothing but coffee (to stay awake), ate a big bag of Chips for supper and entered a climbing competition in the local gym where he proceeded to win after not having climbed in over a month! Now, I definitely think that he has got a few screws loose!

That's it for today.

(Phil Villeneuve was a member of the Canadian National Ski Team for two years and has been a part of the training centre system in Canada since it's inception. He now lives in Canmore where he continues to pursue his Olympic dreams.)

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