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Ruth Mave: Take every opportunity, who knows where it will lead

Monday 2 October 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Ruth Mave: Take every opportunity, who knows where it will lead
Woody Allen. 23093040

Wood Allen said 80 per cent of success is turning up.

I wholeheartedly believe in this concept and it has taken me into some interesting events and experiences that have punctuated my life story with drama and highlights I could not have conceived from following the rules of ordinary life by playing it safe, believing you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and being afraid of what others think of me if I fail.

On a scale of fear, it is the fear of regret that compels me to agree to trying new things. Walking away from an opportunity and wishing later that I should have, could have, would have done it, but didn’t - eats away at my brain, it drives me nuts.

So despite very real phobias of water - I think Jaws is in the bath tub - I have swum in the ocean with dolphins, white water rafted, learnt to kayak eskimo roll – not that I did that in the rapids I was out of that spray skirt and running on air particles before I hit the river.

Heights, I get paralysed with vertigo on a ladder - I have jumped out of planes parachuting alone, although they had to scare me to let go of the plane wing and free fall in a foetal position before the round white shute opened.

Yip that’s how old I am. I have scaled tree towers, rock climbed, abseiled down buildings, bungee jumped twice, the first, they pushed me, the second time I did a back dive, climbed the Eiffel Tower.

And to top it off, claustrophobia the fear of closed spaces - I go in elevators up really tall buildings like the Empire State Building, that’s two phobias in one.

So when I was asked to compete in a modern pentathlon competition because I couldn’t find any athletes to go, I thought well why not, what do I have to lose but more what could I learn.  

Modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport whose inclusion by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912 is loosely based on a day in the life of a Greek soldier who would ride his horse into battle, swim across a river fight the enemy off with a sword or run and shoot them.

Leading the way, I agreed to do it, aware I hadn’t competed in a swim for over 24 years, my water phobia kept me to floating in the lagoon on a full moon.

A cold southerly wind in Rarotonga stopped me trying to pre-train.  

I had not run longer than 100 metres since the Masters Games in 2017, choosing to race walk instead.

I figured I could breastroke head safely above water and race walk the run, all indicative of my age – or so they say.

Upon arrival in Hamilton I had a one-hour lesson in the lounge room learning how to hold the foil and do some lunges.

Later I had another hour lesson facing an opponent wired to the scoreboard and shuffling some moves.

And that was my training, I was pretty much going in blind.

Then, I was told I will be fencing against visually impaired people and I will have to be blindfolded to make it fair.

So feel the fear and do it anyway? - the last laugh was on me as I was definitely going in blind.

The swim was in a nice warm pool indoors so my Jaws phobia did not arise but my lungs made a protest.

Three hours of fencing against 25 opponents of all ages, stages, heights and experience.

Masters of the sword, ex competitors, some trialing for the Olympics and me.

It is not like Zorro, plus after lunging all the time my knees were jelly at the two-hour mark.

The run was in cold blustery conditions and the targets were blowing in the wind, not ideal but I completed the day which started at 8am and finished after 3pm.

I came away with a gold medal in my division because I turned up. 

But to my surprise I achieved third overall individual in female fencing points. What next? The World? It’s on in four weeks.

It is amazing what you can achieve if you don’t buy into what other people think you should be doing at your age. 

You only get one life so live it.

Take every opportunity, who knows where it will lead.

If it gives you more than you expected accept it, if you get less - learn from it. You don’t get out of this life alive so don’t arrive at your grave sedate and remorseful, arrive sliding in on a skateboard with a glass in your hand going whohoo.