How to always feel like a winner

Getting the 1st place trophy at the World Championships 2012 from my very longtime friend Per Welinder.

I have been competing for about 30 years. I have won several Swedish Championships, Swedish Cups, European Championships and a European Cup, a few pro contests and in 2000 I tied for 1st with Kevin Harris in the World Championships in San Fransisco (a small contest that did not have a status until on site when the organisers saw who were competing…) I also have had five second places in the World Championships, and a few third places.

I have been thinking sometimes that it would be fun to once get a World Championships title that is not a tie and that the contest is rather big. Not important to get, but fun. Let me explain a bit more: For me a contest is an opportunity to test my mind-body coordination during the very special circumstances a contest is, with probably a different surface I usually practice on, maybe a different area size, maybe time zone differences, a different climate, friends watching and judges checking every detail and scoring. It is also an opportunity to try my very best and see if I can get into the zone, a peak experience, feeling bliss and relaxation when skating. If I get into the zone, that makes me feel like a winner from within, it does not matter where I place as I feel I have done my best and had fun. I could place last and feel like a winner.

I believe that the true goal of a contest should be an inner goal. If the main goal is to win, it may lead to many years of frustration and disappoinment. After all, only one can get the gold medal (unless it is a tie…), and that mean that most are loosers… if there are 100 competitors (I wonder if we ever will see that many in a pro freestyle contest…) 99 are loosers… it means that 99% do not win, pretty much every single skater is a looser. And by trying to be that 1% that take the gold, it may mean hours and hours of practicing in a way that is believed to give high scores, but the true enjoyment may not be there.

Skateboarding is an unique opportunity to express yourself, there are so many ways to skate, so many ways to be original, but not all ways are the ones that give the highest scores. But there are so much more that is important than the high scores. I believe the focus should be on entertaining yourself and if you like to skate in front of crowds, be it contests or demos, to entertain the spectators. And if you try your best, skate in a way you enjoy and enter the zone of peak experience, then if you do win it will be the “icing of the cake”. But there is nothing to loose.

On the other hand, if you only skate to win or place high, you have so much to loose. Trying to find happiness through external events and circumstances can be a rough roller coaster ride.

But what if you do win almost every contest like Rodney Mullen did during a decade? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Well, Rodney told in interviews that it made him fearful of loosing, and he had no fun with the pressure that got built up. One judge told him he was looking for just a little mistake, so he could put someone in front. And Rodney said that nothing changed during this decade, he said he was the same person, he did not became a better person, and he felt like a fraud he said, trying to skate in a way that would increase his chances to win. He eventualy stopped competing and has said he will never compete again, but now skate almost everyday (well, every night…) alone, film, inventing new tricks and he seem to have as fun as ever. Now, there is nothing wrong stop competing, and in Rodneys case it showed that winning does not automatically mean happiness and having fun.

I entered the World Championships 2011 in Malmö, Sweden with no expectations to win. I was also the organiser and that of course put pressure on me, I wanted everyone to have a great time and enjoy the event. As always I was nervous skating in front of so many of my friends, the best freestyle skateboarders in the world. My goal was to try to stand on and have fun and enter the zone. And also to work on my nervousness, as I have a tendency being nervous when my friends watch me skate. This time my long time friend and mentor Per Welinder was at the event and was one of the announcers, so skating in front of him put even more pressure on me.

In the qualifications I stepped off once (a foot on the ground during footworks, that hardly noone seem to have noticed…) and in the semifinals I missed two times or more. I was surprised to see I was in second place in the semifinals, I did not expect to place that high. In the finals I suddenly stayed on and had lots of fun. I enjoyed my skating and fulfilled my goal of entering the zone and having fun. Now the external results would not matter much, I was already a winner inside!

When I realized I had won it was indeed fun, it was the “icing of the cake” and it was sweet. Not important, but one of the happiest moment in my life: to win first place on homeground in front of a big lovely crowd and some of my very long time friends.

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