Bowhunters: Do You Show Class and Respect After the Kill?

Humility in life — and in the treestand — still matters. Here’s why.

Bowhunters: Do You Show Class and Respect After the Kill?

It’s archery season, and once again I am spending time in hunting camps watching cable TV hunting shows during downtime. Those shows are like watching the old TV show Fantasy Island, aren’t they? They’re all well and good — until I see some dude (or dudette) shoot one of God’s magnificent creatures, then start fist-pumping, staring into the camera lens and strutting like a peacock on parade. Talk about a lack of respect or humility.

If my dad and grandad had ever seen me doing a touchdown dance in the face an animal I’d shot, they would have set me straight in a millisecond. For men of their generations, respect was bedrock.

Of course, it’s kind of hard to blame today’s younger generations. Their role models, the star athletes and celebrities of today, people that the good Lord blessed with extraordinary talent and luck, thrive on outrageous “look at me” displays of preening and trash talking. It’s become the norm rather than the exception.

Every now and then, though, something happens that helps reset priorities. One such example occurred during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, during one of most arduous races, the 15-kilometer (9.32 miles) cross-country skiing competition.

Unless you’re from snow country, you probably have no idea how physically demanding it is to cross-country ski at a fast pace. When I lived in Alaska, I occasionally trained running on the track and in the hills with Sue Forbes, who ended up being an alternate on the women’s U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team. She was so aerobically fit it was mind-boggling. When she and her buddies weren’t skiing, they were winning mountain marathon races. Serious cross country skiers are the toughest of the tough.

In Sochi, Peruvian Roberto Carcelen was racing in the grueling 15-kilometer classic cross-country ski race. He had already made history at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, when he became Peru’s first Winter Olympic athlete. On this day, however, he was saddled with a severe handicap. Less than 3 weeks before the Olympics began, Roberto fractured several ribs in a training accident. Against his doctor’s advice, Carcelen chose to race, knowing he had zero chance of winning.

If you’ve never had a broken rib — and I have — you cannot imagine how painful it is with every breath you take while trying to simply walk, let alone run a race. I cannot imagine how much it hurt Carcelen every time he planted his ski poles in the snow and drove his legs forward as he gave it everything. On top of everything else, Carcelen had picked up a respiratory infection, which made it hard for him to breathe. Later, Carcelen said, “It was a very difficult race for me. I was in a lot of pain in my right ribs. The Olympic course was so demanding and dangerous. If I fell just once, I was pretty sure I couldn’t get up again and finish the race.”

For Carcelen and his broken ribs, finishing was winning. As he approached the finish line in last place, proudly waving the Peruvian flag, his focus was simply on finishing.

Cross-country skier Roberto Carcelen holds the Peruvian flag as he nears the finish line during the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Photo from Roberto Carcelen Facebook)
Cross-country skier Roberto Carcelen holds the Peruvian flag as he nears the finish line during the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Photo from Roberto Carcelen Facebook)

As he reached the finish line, Carcelen couldn’t believe his eyes. Waiting to congratulate him was Dario Cologna of Switzerland, the man who won the race (at the time his third all-time cross-country skiing gold medal; he now has four) with a time of 38 minutes, 29 seconds. Carcelen finished nearly a half-hour later, in 1 hour, 6 minutes, 28 seconds. The crowd cheered as Carcelen almost collapsed as he crossed the finish line. But the moment that still gives me goosebumps was when both Cologna and Dachhiri Sherpa of Nepal, who finished second to last, embraced Carcelen at the finish line (click here to check out the video).

Now that’s class, humility and respect. One of the great all-time Olympic champions, who could have rushed off and preened for the paparazzi, instead waited to cheer on, then congratulate a man who had no chance of beating him.

But there’s more. Carcelen’s dream was to finish his race, then start a foundation with the goal to “harness the power of determination while instilling core Olympic values through the promotion of education.” And he did. The Roberto Carcelen Foundation teaches children in Latin America computer science and provides access to education that was previously unavailable. “The target group we have is really poor people,” said Marcelo Freire, co-founder of the foundation. “They don’t even have access to basic services. We know that if you give these kids the gift of learning how to code, and combine that with the values of goal achieving from sports, you’re giving them a formula for success.”

“People believe in you,” Carcelen said. “People live their lives after all these role models. So you’re in a position to give back. And you should.”

If they were hunters, Roberto Carcelen, Dario Cologna and Dachhiri Sherpa would never, ever fist-pump and disrespectfully dance in the face of any animal they killed. And neither should we.

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