Two sports stories from around 20 years ago are on my mind because my friend showed me the videos of them: that of speed skater Steven Bradbury and swimmer Eric Moussambani. Their stories are amazing if you’re unfamiliar with them. In 2002 at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Bradbury lagged behind the other skaters by a large degree and was nowhere near placing in the top three. Then at the final lap, all of the top-four skaters crashed into one another. That let Bradbury literally glide into first place.
He went from dead last to winning the gold on a fluke. What happened to Bradbury was so incredible that his name has become an idiom. When someone stumbles their way into first place or success, it’s called, “Doing a Bradbury.”
The other story on my mind is Moussambani’s at the 2000 Summer Olympics. He hails from Equatorial Guinea and entered the Olympics via a wild card. He had never seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before the day of his heat and trained mostly in a lake. He swam the slowest time in Olympic history during his 100 m freestyle but he still won because both of his competitors were disqualified due to false starts. He didn’t advance to the next round but he set a new personal best and an Equatoguinean national record.
Moussambani’s story is another example of an unlikely victory stemming from a fluke. In the U.S. anyway, we have this idea you can only win if you’re the very best. It’s all about the cutthroat competition and no room for the recognition there are other forces at work in the world that can also result in a person succeeding.
Yes, these two men were Olympic athletes, they obviously put in the work. Bradbury in particular spent 14 years speed skating and suffered a life-threatening accident and a broken neck two years before his gold medal. Moussambani spent hours training as well. He didn’t sit on his couch and magically get transported to the Olympics. They put in the footwork but something beyond their personal will and grit landed them their victories.
Personally, I’d call it destiny because my spiritual teacher says there are no coincidences. Things don’t just “happen.” He says, “For each and every incident there is some cause.” We may or may not know the cause, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. He gives the example of an earthquake saying perhaps a huge stone took 10 million years to move from one place to another, but when it fell, the action took only a few seconds and caused the earth to shake. The cause took 10 million years to come to fruition but there was a cause for the earthquake.
I take comfort in hearing the stories of Bradbury and Moussambani because it reminds me if something is meant to be, it will happen. There will be a “fluke,” a “chance encounter,” or some other form of “luck” to ensure what is meant to happen to me and for me, does. As long as I continue to show up for my metaphorical race, my higher power will do the rest.
I dream of a world where we remember we are in partnership with the divine. A world where we understand there are no coincidences. A world where we recognize what is meant to happen to us, will. A world where we revel in the magic of supposed flukes, seeing them for the helping hand that they are.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.