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Highs and Lows - Zach Abbott

Published by
wctrack   on Sep 4 2012, 02:26 PM

The chills returned as I re-entered the stadium for my first event, the 400m semi-final. I was in the third of three heats. I knew going into the race that I had a very slim chance of making the final. I was ranked 16th in the world. As the race unfolded, it turned out that I still would not make the final, but in my first race at the Paralympics, with the capacity crowd roaring, I had a personal record by .79 seconds. I ended up ranked 11th in the Games, far better than I could have anticipated. I was ecstatic.

Then the next day, last night, I had my first experience with Paralympic heartbreak in the 100m. First, in the morning prelims, I barely made the final, in the 8th spot, because a strap over my back on my racing chair fell off mid-race and I lost all of my power and body control. Then, in the final in the evening, I was with the leaders-the world record holder and eventual champion, as well as the second ranked athlete in the event this year, off the line for the first time in my life. They dropped me at about 20 to 30 meters, when either I stalled out while everyone else in the race accelerated or I died off. Regardless, I fell from looking like an early threat to dying off and taking last with a time that was half a second slower than my best. What made it worse was seeing that the silver medal time was .08 slower than my personal record, and the bronze medal time was .19 behind my best. And to top all of that off, I crashed after the finish, completely on my own and not through contact with anyone. Thankfully I was only minorly scratched up and my chair was completely intact minus a few small parts that were easily replaceable and cheap. I spent the night beating myself up, seething over my own failure, putting that race in my mind as my fuel for the next four years. I have every intention of taking the gold in Rio.

And then today I hit the track for my 800m semi-final. I ran a personal record by 1.6 seconds despite being 7th of 7 in my heat. I was thrilled with the time even though I was last. However, I would be lying if iI said it were not bittersweet to see that the first place time in the second of our two heats was slower than my last place time in the first. For those of you who do not follow track enough to know how a two heat semi-final advances to the final, it is not the 8 fastest times, but instead it is the top three in each heat and the two fastest times outside of those six. Which means that, despite having the 7th fastest semi-final time, I will not be racing in the final. Two other Americans did manage to advance, and I will be cheering for them tomorrow night as fervently as anyone, hoping they can bring home the gold, if not a silver as well!

And now all I can do is wait for what is supposed to be my last event, the 200m. I'm anxious for another chance to hit the track and hear the crowd roar. Hopefully I can move up a spot in the rankings from 9th so that I can make it into the final.

Overall, my experiences here at the Paralympic Games have been amazing and a dream come true. Even the bad experiences were a blessing and I will be grateful for them down the road when my newly rediscovered drive takes me to greater heights!

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2 comment(s)  
KellyW
I couldn't be more proud of you or happy for you! Have a FANTASTIC 200m and looking forward to Rio!
franceswoodward
Without a doubt, you will take a gold in Rio! What a grand experience that will be! Zach......thanks for the updates! It is so much fun being included in your incredible experience overall. Now......get out there and have fun.
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