As I stared down the track, my mind was plagued with doubts about what I could do. I only was a year removed from winning the gold medal in the triple jump, but now I was just trying to reach the sand pit.

The year was 2013, and even though I had conquered the top of my sport at the 2012 London Games, I now needed to completely re-invent myself as an athlete. For the first time in my career, I was about to switch legs in this sport.

For those who haven't heard of the triple jump before, it's exactly what it sounds like. You run for about 40 meters before taking off with one foot, landing on the same foot, and hopping one more time to your opposite foot before launching one final time. I had done left foot, left foot, right foot for as long as I can remember, but for the first time I was about to attempt right, right, left.

If that doesn't sound daunting, imagine taking a penalty shot in a World Cup Final with your opposite foot.

Fortunately, the whole world wasn't watching my every step. In fact, there were no fans at all, which was probably a good thing. Normally I feed off the energy of the crowd, standing at the beginning of the runway as each slow clap gets louder and faster until it crescendos just before I take off. When I leap into the air for the final time and complete a great jump, I can hear the roar of the crowd.

There would be no applause this time around, but even if there were fans there, I'm not exactly sure they would be cheering anyway.

When I landed that first attempt, I hit 16 meters. It was two meters, or more than six feet, short of the world record. It showed just how far things had fallen, and how far I would have to go to get back to where I once was.

And yet I was ecstatic.

One thing I stopped doing was asking God why is this happening, and what I started asking was what can I learn from this moment?

God's answer? Plenty.

The last five years have shown me just that.

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(Title photo courtesy PhotoRun)

Thomas Hager