Each time you go out the spotlight is on you and your performance alone. Yet everyone loses some time. Khotso Mokoena spoke to Karien Jonckeere about the role forgiving yourself plays in getting back on top off and on the field. Everything is perfect. You know your training has gone exactly to plan and your build-up to the competition has been flawless. All it takes now is for you to do what you have done every other day when it really counts. Perform. And then for reasons you can’t fathom. Things go wrong. And the agonising part of it all is that you know you were more than capable of reaching that podium.
It’s a scenario that is faced by athletes, look swimmers and anyone involved in individual sports. According to world junior triple jump champion Khotso Mokoena there comes a point where you simply have to forgive yourself in order to look ahead to the next opportunity you have to perform.
“I was in Oslo just the other day and things just didn’t go well. I made a lot of mistakes and afterwards I was very down on myself because I looked at what I was capable of and compared it with what I had done,” explained Mokoena. “Then I realised I just had to go home, forgive myself and look where I had gone wrong. In an individual sport like athletics, sometimes it’s good to be hard on yourself but at some point you have to get yourself back together and say, ‘okay, I can do this thing’.”
Mokoena had to do just that at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year. He went into the long jump competition as one of the favourites for a medal, with a personal best of 8,27m in the event. But he could only manage a distance of 8,04m and was devastated to finish in fourth place. But, with the triple jump still to come, the Potchefstroom student picked himself up and focused on his next event, producing a 16,95m jump there to claim the silver medal.
“You have to get your emotions and your mind and everything in line with your body. You have to regroup and pull everything back together when things go wrong,” reckoned Mokoena.
“What I do is that I have to relax and pray about it and I read all the positive things that I’ve written down about myself.
“I think it’s a lot easier to forgive others. Sometimes with yourself it takes a while. I think the reason is that people are important – you need them around you and so you forgive them when they mess up. But sometimes I’m stubborn when it comes to forgiving myself.”
Mokoena’s willingness to forgive others was put to the test last year when he produced the biggest jump of his life with a record-breaking distance of 8,37m. But the officials on duty in Johannesburg that day used the incorrect type of measuring tape (a metal tape was supposed to be used) and as a result the record could not be ratified.
“It was actually really easy for me to forgive them,” said Mokoena of that fateful day. “I think I did that same day. Yes, it was the biggest jump of my life but I suppose they weren’t expecting any records that day or something. I suppose sometimes things like that happen to make you stronger.
“I think it’s very important to forgive in situations like that because you have to move on. You can’t live with a grudge – that’s not going to benefit anybody.” – Heartlines Features.