The Fastest Woman on Earth
My flight to Singapore was in the middle of the night but at least the on board entertainment seemed sound. And so I decided to watch ‘The Fastest Woman on Earth’ – a documentary about Jessi Combs. A woman who broke the record for the fastest land speed – and died achieving this. This was in 2019 and for some reason I guess it failed to make big news coz it’s not F1 or anything media significant like that. But for me, her story was far more inspiring than any F1 driver.
Why? Because Jessi Combs defied all to achieve what she did. She was an automotive fabricator, suffered a terrible spinal injury and yet defied those odds to continue racing and break the land speed record which was held by Kitty O’Neil. It’s not just physically demanding, it’s insane mental focus and stress. And there was no glamour here – just plain perseverance and grit.
I loved how the documentary focused on the dilemma she had between wanting a serious relationship and family and yet wanting to achieve this record. She says, “I am not afraid to die but I am not ready to die yet”. That resonated. Her age when she died was 39 – that’s my age – that resonated. I so got what she was trying to do but it’s just so challenging.
The focus on how Kitty O’Neil who was deaf, and who achieved the record before, in 1976, is crazy. Kitty finally died an alcoholic coz she had issues with someone who was a part of her team who may have sabotaged her. Tragic end but what women these were. We should learn about them and celebrate them. But there’s no glamour in continuously trying to break a record is there? It’s not some Indy car / F1 car. It’s just a rocket car made from the body and nose of a fighter jet. Dude. That’s innovation. With afterburners. Insane.
But no. It’s not Hollywood / Netflix glamour. It’s so many failed attempts. Don’t see people fussing about Mercedes Benz’s two year failed attempts at getting a car that’s good enough for a championship – that’s the way apparently.
And the media loves the circus and we the foolish consumers don’t know what true challenges, achievement and grit is.
Jessi Combs for me is possibly one of the most inspirational figures for women fighting the stereotype that we don’t belong in men’s domains – aircraft, automobiles, the works.
Fuck that shit.
I honestly wish I had seen this story sooner – but I guess it’s all in good time. We are given the knowledge needed – when we need it. Perhaps like Jessi, there are some of us called to do stuff in a ‘man’s world’ coz we are able to handle it and we need to lead the way. Perhaps in our own ways, we need to set records so that others can follow. And the dichotomies constantly challenged and the barriers constantly broken.
Coz only once we all move, will it become the norm. But till then, at least one of us needs to start.
*Photo credit – IANS_ARCH