Sometimes, very rarely, a person will accomplish something exceptional. You may be this person. Or it may be someone else that does the achieving. This moment is so rare that it will never be repeated.
Do you ever know, at that moment, that the ultimate has been achieved? Or do you dismiss it as a good achievement which will in itself be superseded sooner or later? Every year or two I stalk this rather metaphysical question. What am I blathering on about? A few examples from the world of sport which I know passably well
In 1993 in Salamanca, Spain one Javier Sotomayor high-jumped 2.45m, just clipping the bar as he cleared it. As he landed on the mat and listened to the crowd’s cheers, did he understand that this was the pinnacle of his career, that he would never jump higher? His world record still stands twenty years on. Britain’s Paula Radcliffe set an astonishing marathon world’s best time of 2:15.25 in London in 2003. Now aged 40, Radcliffe is still training away at altitude and I imagine that a small part of her clings to the belief that she can still better it.
In that same year Jonny Wilkinson was poised to accept a pass from teammate Matt Dawson in front of the Australian posts, to attempt a drop-goal to win the Rugby World Cup Final. In that split second maybe he did a deal with the Devil. The young tyro kicked the goal but was thereafter dogged by injury after injury and never quite reached that exalted level again (though the Devil had some heart and allowed him to continue to play at a high enough level to this day). Video of that drop goal here.
Music. The Tom Robinson Band and Two-Four-Six-Eight Motorway, the Boomtown Rats with I Don’t Like Mondays, Free and All Right Now. Did those bands know they’d had their best moment and nothing they would do in future would better it? Did Richard Carpenter say to Karen that they might as well finish it there and then after Goodbye To Love?
Writing and the arts. I bet the minute that da Vinci finished the Mona Lisa he was onto his next canvas not realising what he’d just done. Auguste Rodin most likely thought his Thinker was a rubbish effort. Did James Joyce, on putting the last full stop at the end of Ulysess say ’This is my greatest work’ or ‘I’m off for a pint, no one will ever read that tosh.’
Two personal ones to end with. Around about 1967 Jerseyman Geoff Vowden scored for Birmingham City against Blackpool with a volley so sweet I still accord it the title of the greatest goal that I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a few. And in 1995 the 50th Anniversary Liberation celebrations in Jersey were accompanied by a fireworks display so awesome that, since that night, I’ve had no interest in attending another display.
So do you have a life highlight, and did you really believe it to be so at the time?