Opportunity golden one for Goodale

Posted Sept. 25, 2008, at 10:09 p.m.

The undefeated Camden Hills of Rockport boys soccer team put on a dominant performance Wednesday afternoon, easily defeating a Gardiner team that had come into their midseason clash with just a single loss of its own.

That the Windjammers rolled to a 6-0 victory will carry a bit of a lasting memory for the team — depending, of course, on how the rest of the season progresses.

But after acknowledging the presence of a supportive crowd of fans at Don Palmer Field, the players received the ultimate in acknowledgments of a job well done — a gold-medal salute.

No Terrible Towels for these guys on this glorious early autumn afternoon, but a towel-like wave of an Olympic gold medal by its owner, 2001 Camden Hills graduate Anna Goodale.

The brief tribute, which spawned laughter from the soccer players and the gold medalist alike, was a fitting conclusion to an afternoon spent celebrating Goodale’s performance as part of the victorious U.S. rowing women’s eight squad in Beijing last month.

The day featured recognition for a favorite daughter, as well as an Olympic lesson in what it takes to get to the top of a chosen sport and reinforcement by Goodale that it’s not beyond anyone’s reach.

Goodale was an athlete at Camden Hills, but not a star in her chosen sports, basketball and soccer. Yet the joy of competition and the bonds of teamwork have remained well beyond her high school years, much as it has with other athletes who didn’t achieve immediate stardom but persevered their way to greatness.

Goodale urged today’s Camden Hills students to think outside the box — as she did when approached on her first day at Syracuse University to consider taking up rowing despite having no experience in the sport.

She also passed along advice that served her and her Olympic teammates well as they rowed their way to gold, to focus on the moment for that’s the only thing anyone can really control.

And the kids listened, because they knew Anna Goodale had done much more than talk the talk. Hopefully they learned.

Perhaps what made this afternoon so special was the sense of normalcy of it all. High school kids and adults alike converged upon the school’s gymnasium eager to see a gold medal, and even prouder that one of their own had earned it.

As for Goodale, rarely did she take a step, save for during her presentation to the student assembly, without younger sisters Jesse and Adrianna in tow.

And Goodale was grateful for the chance to share her Olympic story with those following in her footsteps at Camden Hills — not to brag about her accomplishments, but merely as an opportunity to let the next generation know that nothing is out of their grasp as long as such qualities as patience, focus, inner strength and determination remain within their grasp.

Later, the scene was even more relaxed as she and her sisters stayed throughout the soccer match to mingle with former teachers, old friends and new admirers.

She answered questions, for sure, but mostly Goodale listened — perhaps the greatest gift of all to those who shared her roots in Midcoast Maine and just wanted to offer congratulations, or others whose only previous connection with an Olympian had come through the media.

Overall, the afternoon was nearly as impressive as Goodale’s six-year rise from rowing novice to Olympic champion.

For in an age when the international sports movement often is overshadowed by political strife or steroid scandals, Anna Goodale was able not only to bring home Olympic gold, but the Olympic spirit, too.

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