The Cargo Net to Success

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As the New Year kicks off, I find myself buried in self-help podcasts and emails, always hoping to find nuggets that will help boost productivity, health, sense of purpose, etc… Amidst the deluge of advice, one small piece of wisdom sticks out. It came from an interview with World Champ triathlete and Oscar winning filmmaker Lesley Paterson who says: “I’ve always seen success as a cargo net, not a ladder.”

Meaning, there are many ways to the top, and they are not necessarily direct. She stresses the importance of doing things your own way, and bringing both discipline and creativity to a pursuit.  

I love the cargo net analogy, and it got me thinking about what makes sport so compelling. Sure we love winners, and are in awe of superstars who tick off successes like clockwork. But we love the unlikely successes even more. That was reinforced last weekend during some inspiring moments in ski racing.

The flat-out highlight for me was seeing AJ Hurt score a SL podium from Bib 38. It wrapped up so many unlikely things in one package. Anyone scoring a podium from that far back in SL is impressive and surprising. But then, consider how brutal the conditions were; that she had qualified only twice before in World Cup SL; that GS, where she was steadily marching up the rankings this season, is considered her best event; oh, and that she had a season-ending ankle surgery just over a year ago. Seeing Paula Moltzan—queen of the cargo net journey, and Hurt’s #1 finish line fan—in 5th place, was icing on the cake.

When Steve Porino mistakenly referred to Hurt as AJ Ginnis during the flurry of excitement, it was an understandable slip. Hurt’s performance brought back a similarly inspiring feat last season in Chamonix, when another AJ battled from bib 48 to a second-place finish, then quickly backed it up with a World Champs silver medal. We can’t get enough of that stuff!

Even when people already have loads of wins under their belts, it’s a lot more fun to watch them find success in an unexpected way.  

Exhibit A: Mr. A.A.Kilde. When the other half of ski racing’s power couple, gets a podium or a win in a speed event, it’s fine. Amazing skier. By all reports an amazing human. But…meh. Another day another krone. However, Kilde scoring his first ever podium in GS on a hill as badass as Adelboden? Alongside his teammate who is on his own comeback trail? THAT’s cool!

The next day at Adelboden brought a similar surprise from River Radamus. His 4th place GS finish on Saturday was surely inspiring. But his 19th place slalom finish on Sunday, from Bib 70, was even more exciting, because nobody saw it coming, perhaps not even Radamus himself. Did the 70-point SL skier (ranked 1594 in the world), really expect to work his way up the SL rankings by putting it all on red in one of the toughest World Cups on the tour? Not likely. But on his way up the cargo net he decided to make a rogue grab across a monster gap, and he made it.

Shout out to Ben Ritchie, too, for kicking off the good vibe in the Adelboden SL, by getting a second run and finishing it with the green light. His smile of pure relief in the finish quietly spoke volumes about the journey. When I see these moments, and their polar opposites of heart-break, I can’t help getting a little teary—for the athletes, but even moreso for their parents at home or in the finish.

Recently a friend asked me if the parental agony of watching ski racers gets better as you go along. It never, ever does. I have it on good authority that this holds true to the highest level of competition. Fans can check in anytime and note where an athlete is on the ladder, but parents see their kids day after day, year after year, precariously grappling with the cargo net. We wonder and worry about how they’ll negotiate the next move, if they can manage to hold on, what will happen if and when they fall and where they’ll ultimately end up.

If we’re lucky, these years of working and moving in every direction lead to some satisfying victories—large and small–where we (parents and kids alike) realize that the endless parade of DNF’s and injuries and missed opportunities and disappointment were actually worth it. However rarely or often we get those moments, it helps to remember that there are many ways to climb the net, and that the most unlikely paths are also the most exciting.

Bring it on 2024!

4 thoughts on “The Cargo Net to Success”

  1. Yes, you nailed it!
    As a mother of two ski racers that climbed that ladder quite high ultimately choosing a different path, and their older brother , who started to dream about the top, and is still a great skier, I wouldn’t miss a minute of their often difficult journeys.

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