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Dear Dan

by Carole Bellacera

  Dear Dan Jansen:

Is it sweeter?  Is victory sweeter for all the disappointments you've suffered?  Look, I'm not just another jaded reporter asking one of her "off-the-top-of-the-head-let-me-get-the-best-quote" questions.  I really want to know.

Because, Dan, on Monday when another "sure thing" became a lost cause for you, I cried.  I cried for you, for your wife Robin, for your relatives, for America's disappointment, but most of all, I cried for myself.  Because I understood what it felt like for you.

Time after time, you went for the gold medal--any gold medal--and time after time, you fell short.  It wasn't that you weren't good enough.  No, you'd proven many times that you were the best in the world.  You broke world records.  You won world cups and championships.  But the Olympics defeated you every time.

I can identify.

No, I'm not an athlete.  I'm a writer.  Some people say I'm a successful writer.  I started writing professional eight years ago and to date, I've had over 100 short stories and articles appear in literary and slick magazines in America, Ireland, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Fiji.  I once sold a children's picture book to Doubleday (which was cancelled when they merged with Dell).  I've had fiction appear in anthologies and on audio cassette.  I've won prizes for my fiction--from 1st Place in prestigious literary magazines to an honorable mention in Writer's Digest's short story awards competition.

I'm a talented writer.  I know it, but Dan, like you, I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get my god medal--that it's just not meant to be.  You see, I've written two novels, and I'm at work on my third.  I've poured heart and soul into those books.  I want, more than anything in the world, to be a published novelist.  Until I am, I won't consider myself a success.

Yet, after four years, three agents and many rewrites, I sometimes don't feel any closer to realizing my dream than I did at the beginning.  Oh, there have been some glowing rejections from major hardcovers houses, but in the end, the only thing they add up to is another "no."

So, Dan, as you skated on Monday and lost, yet again, I felt your pain.  I relived my heartbreak through your own.  I know how much it hurts to want something so badly, and come so close and still lose.  It's agony.

And then, today arrived--your final chance to get that gold medal.  When Charles Kuralt interviewed Robin before the race, she tried so hard to be optimistic, but it was obvious she was scared to death.  Afraid that once again, she'd have to watch you lose.

You could see the fear in her eyes as she answered his question.  "Sure, a happy ending--that would make all this be worth it--would wash it all way, but I'm not really counting on it.  I'm just trying to look ahead and prepare for our future with our without a happy ending."

"Robin, what if, after all these years of Olympic agony," Mr. Kuralt asked, "there is, at the end of it all, a place on the podium for your husband at last, and a flag raising?"

She shook her head, and her eyes lit up with hope.  "Oh, the emotion...I can only imagine the emotion.  If that flag is raised for Dan...I get chills just thinking about it.  It'll be the most wonderful feeling and it'll make all that that we've been through worthwhile."

As she spoke the words, I realized how I could apply them to myself.  How often I have imagined that wonderful moment when the phone rings and my agent says, "Carole, we have an offer on Provisional Wife."  But then, I return to the real world, and I wonder, will it ever happen for me?  Perhaps it's not meant to be.

But today, Dan, it happened for you.  You did it!  And like everyone else in America, and perhaps even in the world, I rejoiced.  And again, I found myself crying, with tears of happiness this time.  And like Robin did as you crossed that finish line, breaking your world record, I raised my eyes heavenward and said, "Thank you, God!"

So, Dan, was your victory sweeter because of all the disappointments that came before it?  I think I know your answer.  Yes.  Oh, yes.

Congratulations, Dan.  You believed in yourself enough to keep trying in the face of adversity, and that's what I have to do, too.  If I want it bad enough, I'll fight for it.  And I won't give up.  Not ever.  Not until I get my gold medal.

Thanks for the inspiration, Dan.  I'm glad you won.  You deserve it.

Sincerely,

A fellow American

P.S. I'll send you an autographed copy of my novel when it comes out.

 


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