The Olympic Dream is Worth Fighting For
In an exclusive essay for Women’s Health, the American snowboarder talks about her career, the Olympic dream, and what being an Olympian means to her
I’ve wanted to be an Olympian ever since I was a little girl. I remember being glued to the TV as I watched the Olympics as a kid. There was something so magical, almost otherworldly, about the Olympics. My favorite part was that moment right before it all started. The moment where the athlete would stand up ready to face whatever lay ahead. I loved how all of the athletes handled that one moment so differently. Regardless of what was about to happen, they had lived every day of their lives up to that moment with discipline, passion, and courage to face their fears and challenges head on—all because of this one goal: the Olympic dream. I decided that was what I wanted in my life, and how I wanted to live my days too.
What the Olympics mean to me has changed over the years. I’m a two-time Olympian, but on the front and back end of both of those were two Olympics where I narrowly missed making the team. So you could say that I’ve been personally involved in the Olympics for over 12 years. Your perspective changes with experience and age, and that’s what happened during my career.
When I went to the Winter Olympics for the first time in 2006, I had worked my ass off to get to that point. (Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun, too, but worked my ass off nonetheless.) I had my ups and downs, my victories and defeats, and along the way I was learning and growing. That journey created this strong, confident woman who knew exactly what she wanted. But at the same time I understood that I had not gotten there on my own; I was representing the Olympic dream for everyone who helped me get there—from my family and friends, to my coaches, sponsors, and country. With that perspective, I embraced the pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage and I won a silver medal, leaving Torino with fairytale Olympic memories.
The 2010 Vancouver Olympics proved to be the opposite. I was at a point in my career where I was struggling with what the Olympic dream meant to me. Where before I only saw it positively, now I was seeing it differently. It seemed the only thing that was important to the media was the medal count. I was at a point in my life—I had just gotten married, had a full career with eight years of accomplishments—where I was almost rebelling against what I saw as America’s obsession with gold medals. In my mind, I didn’t need a gold medal to make me happy or to define who I was. My goals and feelings were no longer congruent, and as a result, I fell on the last trick of my potentially gold-medal run.
After Vancouver, I realigned with what I wanted. Even though I knew I didn’t need a gold medal to make me happy or to be successful in life—I still wanted one! After realizing that I had, in a way, self-sabotaged my chances of accomplishing that goal, I decided there was more I wanted to do in women’s snowboarding. But if I were going to continue, I knew my goals could not be based around results and winning; I found out in Vancouver that motivator no longer did it for me.
What did excite me was reinvention and progression, and that set the tone for my next four years. It brought my riding to the highest level of my career, and my energy for snowboarding was also at an all-time high. Until a near career-ending injury brought it all to an abrupt halt. While I got really close at the last of the U.S. Olympic qualifiers before Sochi, I never fully returned to that rider I had been before my accident—and just like in 2002, I narrowly failed to make the women’s U.S. Olympic halfpipe team.
Now I feel like I have come full circle, and with 12 years of Olympic experiences, I can honestly say this: The Olympic dream is worth fighting for. That magic and awe I felt as a little kid is real. And sure, the problems of the Olympics—that I especially felt this year, as I was inundated with stories of potential terrorist attacks, environmental destruction, LGBT discrimination, and the killing of stray dogs—are also real. But it’s an inspiring event where normal people live out extraordinary journeys, all fueled by one common goal. They move past their differences, push themselves further then they ever thought they could, and all the while they bring us with them; it is their light that inspires us to live our dreams and push ourselves to be great. And that should never be overshadowed.
Source: Women’s Health