I very much enjoyed meeting Australian rider Jason O’Halloran recently, while attending a British Superbike round. We shared stories and some laughs.
One of the subjects we talked about was ‘hanging on by your fingertips’. How for racers trying to make it on the international scene, the first years away from home are extremely trying. Being new to a team, learning new circuits and racing against fierce competition that usually know these circuits well. Then add this to the following: You have no real home, no family, close friends or even a local gym where you can chat openly to familiar faces. You soon start dreaming of your favourite food from home, getting on your bike or in your car to go see your friends and loved ones. But you can’t.
When you raced at home you proved you were good but now you’re getting your ass kicked at the most important thing in your life, racing, and so you push harder. Eventually you get injured. Jason spoke of his experience when medical staff had no choice but to pull his leg out straight with a rachet strap after his buttocks muscles went into spasm causing concern that his broken Femur would damage an artery. It really was a nightmare inducing story that Harvey (his team manager) who obviously has history with Jason and a close working relationship, cringed at the memory of the screams.
When things aren’t going your way you get a slagging off by some of the press. Maybe your team manager is one of the less professional ones and bad mouths you too. Even some of the people at home start doubting you. The mental test REALLY begins. Why am I doing all this? Do I really love racing bikes as much as I thought?
These first two years are make or break for a rider. Most that have been through it will tell you about times they mentally ‘hung on by their fingertips’. All you can do in this situation is hang on and grit your teeth, do your best to enjoy the country and team you are in and keep committing yourself to the racing.
Eventually you come out the other side. One day after a visit home you get back to the place you rent in this foreign land and feel that you have returned to somewhere familiar that you know and like. You call the friends you have made nearby and meet up at your favourite restaurant. You look forward to seeing your team again and riding their bike at the local track you know and like. You get some good results and everything feels like its falling into place.
You’ve heard the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ ? I’m not sure I agree completely, but I do know that the tough times really make you appreciate the good.
Photos of Jason thanks to DoubleRed