When Your Best is Not Good Enough

By John Winn

Sometimes, no matter how fast we run, how hard we push, or how graceful we dismount, the best isn’t good enough for some people. You could put your entire life on hold, sacrificing birthdays, Christmases, proms just to work towards a single dream–only for it to evaporate in a London minute. But you don’t have to be an Olympic gymnast to know how it feels.

Yes, Jordyn Wieber was done wrong, and even a clumsy, non-athletic aspiring writer could tell that the point system in gymnastics is messed up beyond all recognition, but what makes Weiber’s cut Sunday from the all-around competition semi-final so moving wasn’t how dramatic or unexpected it was–but it’s banality.

Wieber was (and is) the Hillary Clinton of the U.S. Gymnastic team in 2012–the front-runner, the odds on favorite, the girl who would be queen. This is a girl who consistently posted stats in the 59.5-60.0 range, who has won multiple gold medals in international competition, and is pretty much the reigning female world champion in her sport. So when she failed to advance, it was an upset, to say the least.

Wieber’s loss resonates beyond the world of sports. How many girls her age have applied to Harvard, Yale, Carolina or a bunch of other schools only to get turned down?  How many women have struggled to advance in their careers, only to see less competent men become CEOs, CFOs, and managers?  You could be the top of your class, have excellent employment histories, and still not Make It.

There are a lot of factors that led to Wieber’s loss.  Deductions, judging, the usual behind-the-scenes politics–take your pick.  But that doesn’t take away the pain. Wieber just got a knife in her heart, and believe me, those memories are going to stay.  It’s like Neil Armstrong being told he won’t be allowed to walk on the moon–you think you’d forget that sort of thing?

I agree with Bela–I think the rules system in Olympic gymnastics stinks, and is probably the biggest sham this side of The City. But I am not an athlete.  But pain and disappointment are universal regardless of what you play or what your nationality is.  Put me on Team Wieber.

[UPDATE: Looks like Wieber made good on her plan to net a gold for the Fab Five.  You can read the details here.]

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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The Interview: Natasha Phillips

A lovelorn Natasha Phillips blows a kiss to her reptilian paramour.

Quirky with a ironic, almost nonsensical sense of humor, Natasha Phillips (@SobukiRa on Twitter) defies labels.  One minute she’s blogging about international custody disputes, satirizing pop culture with her imaginary friends InkyBuki and Cranial Gerbil the next.  But the aspiring writer is no scatter brain.  With an impressive career as a researcher for a UK advocacy firm and a barrister in her own right, Natasha can hold forth as eloquently as any peer–male or female.  Future critics, take note.

Hennen’s John Winn caught up with Ms. Phillips via email and chatted about life in Europe, the origin of InkyBuki–and her forbidden love for a certain star crossed rodent.

JB:  You hail from London.  What’s different about writing there versus the States or Continental Europe?  Is it less dreary or are people there just numb?

NP: To my mind being in different places offers opportunities to observe the human condition in its many different forms; it’s a real privilege to be able to write and reflect in different environments. Londoners are generally bloody miserable so there’s definitely plenty of scope to explore the stagnation of our species there.

I was lucky enough to visit the States growing up as I have lots of relatives there and really enjoy travelling to San Francisco when I can. I have a romantic view of it though; in reality, it’s changed a lot since I was little and like London it’s become less unpredictable.

The Continent though, despite or perhaps because of its economic troubles holds a great deal of immediate colour in relation to the human condition which is readily visible still in day to day life. There is still warmth that you can tap into in most places; a humanity that still prevails.

But perhaps it’s really a question of degree; I think if you look hard enough in London or Las Vegas, you can still see pain and pleasure in all its complexity beating beneath the surface: it just depends how deep you’re willing to go. And whether or not you can source a really big monocle.

JW:  Who is InkyBuki, and why is she so mysterious?

NP: InkyBuki is the inky version of Sobuki Ra, who is a crocodile living in a bayou (the coordinates of which are top secret) and can be found most days swimming in the Twitter and Google + streams, terrorising other social media users and hatching mischievous plans with her best friends Ludvig, the Goblin Shark and Cranial Gerbil, a gerbil. I believe she is the only crocodile to date with opposable thumbs, which goes some way to explaining why she has taken up the art of writing and why she is perhaps a little mysterious about it.

JW: What’s with the gerbil obsession?  Is there something you need to share with the rest of the class?

NB: Cranial Gerbil is no ordinary rodent. The little pink plastic ball he lives in is all that stands between him and world domination. We are star crossed lovers. It’s very sad.

JW:  You’re also an advocate of family law reform in the UK.  Do you ever get weird emails or photos of people dressed like Batman?

Frequently, but I rather like Superheroes and action figures, so I tend to invite them all to the work meetings I help organise. Sometimes, if I’m very well behaved, they share their Trebor XXX mints with me.

JW:  Final Question: Dickens or Tolstoy–who is the most depressing writer?

NP: If one is more depressing than the other, it must be only be by a whisky.