21 September 2012

Alexis conquers the hurdles

This video has been featured widely on the internet.  I'm going to repost it here because it struck a chord with me on a very personal level, which I'll explain at the end.

This is a remix; the original video (which you can view here) shows an 8th-grade girl named Alexis participating in her first school track event.  The YouTube poster comments "This video is 6yrs old. Alexis did run the hurdles again and didn't fail. She did give me permission to post the video and all of her friends have seen it, while they do find it funny they do support her and her courage."

The remix adds the audio of the Scala and Kolacny Brothers' version of Radiohead's "Creep."
The classically trained Kolacny brothers, Steven (piano) and Stijn (conducting) have turned this Belgian girls’ choir into an international phenomenon, performing imaginatively reworked covers of Radiohead, U2, Rammstein and Nirvana songs...

One can debate whether the lyrics for Radiohead's "Creep" are totally appropriate for the hurdles video, but the rendition by this girls choir is so beautifully executed, and some phrases are so perfect that the remix really "works" for me.  The original hurdles video was time-stretched to match the audio, and the resultant slo-motion effect is quite dramatic.

I've reviewed the comments about the video at 3-4 different websites.  Not surprisingly perhaps, given the shallowness of many websurfers, the dominant theme is that this is a "fail" video.  That the girl is a loser, that she missed a hurdle, that her coaching was dreadful, that this is the funniest LOLs video they've ever seen.

I have a different viewpoint.  And for that I need to tell a story.  In 1952 I contracted polio; after recovering I was left with some residual atrophy of my right quad, so I could ambulate, but couldn't run very fast.  I attended a school where participation in sports was mandatory all three seasons of the school year.  In the spring the school also held an all-school track day in which everyone was required to participate in several events.  I was entered in the discus and the 220 yard run.  For the latter event I can still remember being in the back stretch when the leaders were crossing the finish.  By the time I got to the finish line they were setting up for the next heat.

When I crossed that finish line, the school's track coach came over to me.  Mr. Bettels was a man who knew what impairment was.  He had what I think in retrospect was severe kyphoscoliosis, but he was an inspirational coach and classroom teacher.  He came to me and very quietly and privately congratulated me on finishing the race.  I hadn't viewed my circling of the track as anything heroic; I was just doing what was expected.  He viewed it a bit differently, and it took me some time to fully appreciate the import of his commendation.  In the decades since then I've won a variety of non-athletic honors and have a smattering of trophies and plaques, but those words from Coach are one of the treasured memories of my youth.

So... I offer my congratulations to young Alexis.  I don't find the video to be funny at all - it's inspirational, and it choked me up to watch it.   It's also a good reminder that every day there are children whose bravery and courage goes unrecognized.  We all need to take moments now and then to commend the "losers."

Reposted from 2010 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Radiohead's initial release of this, their debut song.

See also this animated version and Chrissie Hynde's cover of the song.


  1. Oh yikes. I've seen the scrapes and massive bruise that my then-boyfriend got from just one fall like that. Alexis and the girl in the #3 lane must have been hurting big time that night. (And yeah, you'd think the coaches would have figured out they weren't ready for that in practice.)

    But hey, she finished. I've never finished (or started) a track event in my life. Good for her.

  2. I certainly didn't see anything to laugh at in the video, nor did i see "fail", but I was saddened by the girl's willingness to take pain and risk injury for something so unimportant.
    Your personal story, though, made me see it in a different light. I
    remember a quotation, from a soldier who'd been awarded honours for bravery.
    He said, at the time, that he was so fired-up, he felt no pain, no fear, and that people mistook that for bravery. Bravery, he said, is when the man who's shivering, shaking, terrified, gets up and still advances into danger.
    Bravery is not lack of fear, its facing fear and continuing.

  3. Binho ( from Brazil)November 12, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Something told me(I don´t know why) that I'd read a fantastic story when I asked you to post and I was right!

  4. Binho (from Brazil)November 12, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    I collaborate on Mary's blog (Blog da Mary) and also posted this video, talking about success and failure, with text in our language, of course: Portuguese (Brazil)


    visit us and comment , please . Can be in english.
    We say : "The house is yours"

    you are welcome

  5. Congratulation to Alexis and to you for your courage.

  6. At the risk of quibbling, I just want to clarify that there was no courage involved in my event, which was several log powers less impressive than Alexis'.

  7. It also takes courage to take an unpopular stand, to resist the lure of easy approval by the mindless masses. I would venture to guess that most, if not all, of the negative posts of the original video were by young people who have not once in their short, pampered lives had to struggle for anything. The greatest lessons are those hardest won. And the greatest victories, which this young woman most definitely achieved.

    1. Indeed. That is often the lonelier place, because it's easy to stand next to someone who physically tried as hard as they could, that's obvious. It is much, much harder to stand next to someone who speaks an unpopular truth. Too often, cowardice wins. --A.

  8. It's amazing to see the different comments for this video in different places. I cringed when I saw it, remembering my less-than-stellar track performances in high school, and also thinking of my kids and how I would feel to see them fall.

  9. It can be a fine line between tragedy and comedy, neither of which I see here. Painful as I'm sure it was physically (and psychically, even more so), she managed to turn a most obvious loss a into a significant personal triumph.

    Not much she's gonna fear after that...

  10. I would show this to my children if not for the lyrics. Other than that, her persistence is to be admired and emulated.

  11. Anon, show them the original (at the "view here" link), without the lyrics.

  12. Well, don't forget about the other girl...the one in the red sweatshirt running next to her...I think she fell as many times as Alexis!

  13. Bravo Minnesotastan, very good. I watched the vid w/the audio off, as is my custom, and instead read your post about it. Damn, it's dusty in here...

    I've learned that most of the web commenters are children, cruel and callous, playing childish, cruel games, unable to empathize with anyone else unless and until they suffer the same. And sometimes, even then they won't or can't learn the better lesson.

    Too many parents have taken their ability to feel compassion and empathy for others for granted, and as a result have never given any abject lessons to their kids in how to be humane. Humans are not born humane.

    When as a child, we played cops 'n robbers, and we the kid as the robber demanded the cop our dad put his hands up, what did we then do when he complied, hold our fire or shoot him? Yeah, see.

    Children wielding speech on the interwebs is really not that different than handing them a loaded gun with no training or lessons of any kind. They gleefully aim the weapon pell mell, laughing as it punches holes in others, not caring until someone does it to them. So they learn in the school of hard knocks like we all do but as we wizened survivors know, the lessons are not all positive and often harden rather than soften the heart. And so the interwebs is too often Dodge City, instead of Sesame Street.

    I wish there was a way to show the inner scars suffered by the emotionally and mentally harmed and disabled, too. Those kind of "losers" are subject to just as much ridicule and heartlessness, but on a more insidious, socially acceptable and widespread basis. It's so easy to make fun of the odd duck, the socially inept, the quirky and different.

    Just finishing the race seems no big thang to so many, because as you say, it often is just seen as what else would you do. So when someone who gets no encouragement, who is given the cold shoulder, is avoided, is treated like pariah for being "weird", by everyone, including their own family, manages to cross the finish line, it is often even more remarkable, because no one, aside from their mother (if they're lucky), sees the hurdles they've had to surmount, or even cares. And the emotionally and mentally crippled are expected to endure silently, because otherwise they're just feeling sorry for themselves and that's just pathetic, isn't it.

    They should just go kill themselves, would be at least one eventual comment. Something that even a thoughtless child would not dare say directly to someone's face, especially in front of their parents. Because then they'd have to watch the pain etch over their victim's face, they'd have to feel the pierce of the angry, ashamed tears. Something the interwebs doesn't convey.

    If parents don't teach their kids a briefly painful, but highly humanizing lesson, in standing in someone else's shoes for a day, they raise sociopaths. Yes, we do. The sooner we just face that truth, the sooner fewer of us will suffer, our own spawn first and foremost. In the meantime, all of us end up with a more rotten society as a result of compassion and empathy being taken for granted.

    Thank you for this post. I hope at least one child who would otherwise leave a cold, vile comment "for the lulz" (of who, Satan?) will now think twice, at least.

    To all who finish the race despite it all, good on ya. Prost. *whiskey from below the bleacher seat*


  14. That is a classic song. Here are some good covers.

    Cathialine Andria studio version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5VYLFk9zfg)

    Younee live on Korean National TV doing a piano version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djJ9UjtImOg). Odd to hear it sung in English with a heavy Korean accent. She does a good job.

    My favorite has to Prince doing his version at Coachella in 2008. He completely redoes the song and adds some amazing guitar work. I am not a huge Prince fan, but this guy has talent and this video shows it.

  15. I forgot to add the link to Prince

    1. I've recommended this version to countless people - Prince fans or not. He completely nails this song TO THE WALL. An inspiring performance, with absolutely jaw-dropping guitar work. I love the audience's stunned silence at the end - just before the roar of applause! Check out his contribution to the star-studded version of "While my Guitar..." from the George Harrison tribute concert - he wipes the stage with the likes of Clapton & Petty.

    2. So true! I love Tom Petty, and he does an great job at this concert. He and Jeff Lynne, Eric Clapton are doing an amazing job.

      But you are right. Little Price shows up and wipes the floor with all of these guys.

    3. It was Prince who got me interested in checking out some of the earlier funk guitarists who meandered back n forth between straight funk and what most people think of as classic "rock n roll" guitar. Any of Parliament/Funkadelic's guitarists, for instance. All those amazing studio guys from Motown and Muscle Shoals. Check out Eddie Hazel's 10+ min. opus "Maggot Brain" and prepare to have your mind blown!

  16. Well, I've seen nothing but thoughtful, introspective comments here--as it should be.
    A truly inspirational vid..and with PERFECT musical accompaniment.


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