Olympic Trials have been on TV non-stop for the past week…and I LOVE IT! Nothing gets you in the Olympic spirit more than watching struggling, unknown athletes realize their lifelong dreams. It can be incredibly thrilling to see these ultra-talented competitors earn their Olympic berths, and yet I’ve been finding it nerve-wracking to watch them prepare to compete. I look at their faces as they walk onto the pool deck, or up to the track starting blocks, or as they chalk their hands for their uneven bar routine, and I know exactly what they are thinking. They’re telling themselves, “Ok, this is it. Everything I’ve worked for comes down to this moment. You’ve been here a million times. Just do your thing.” But in the deepest, darkest part of their mind, there is a voice questioning their abilities and making them wonder if they will be able to deliver at the moment that matters most.
I would bet that every athlete competing at an Olympic trial has a moment when they doubt themselves. And this is natural. They aren’t weaker for being unsure of their talents in a fleeting moment. However, it is the athlete who can hear this taunting voice, and then bury it before it becomes something dangerous, that is the one who succeeds. The importance of physical preparation can often come second to the essential ability of believing in oneself when the pressure is thick.
By the time I was sitting at the starting line of my Olympic trial final, the demonic voice questioning my ability was already gone. We had fought our battle the night before. Without a doubt, nights are the worst for me. I can successfully spend an entire day distracting myself from the nerves of an impending race, but more often than not, when I finally let my body and mind unwind, the voice tries to creep in. On the Wednesday night before my final, I had to force myself to remember a few things. First, that I was prepared for this moment. I couldn’t look back at the couple of months leading up to trials and find ONE thing that I regretted about my preparation. And I had made sure of that! Every decision I made regarding my training leading up to our race, I made with that intention. Second, that as uncomfortable as nerves can make your body feel, I actually enjoy being under pressure. Reminding myself of the many races I have succeeded in when my butt was really on the line gave me the confidence that I could do it again. And lastly, that if I was the toughest version of myself during that race, a version that I practice being on a daily basis, that there would be nothing else I could do.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt a huge sense of relief. Months of stress fell away from my body. In fact, nagging injuries that have been bothering me for some time have suddenly stopped being an issue in the last couple of weeks, and I attribute this to the lessened stress. I agree with what many of the NBC announcers have been saying about winning an Olympic trial – once you secure your spot on the team, athletes begin to perform better because at least they can walk away with the title of “Olympian.” As nervous as I am to compete at the games, I am much more excited to see what we can do. Don’t get me wrong, I will be very disappointed if we walk away without a medal, a goal that I believe is realistic and attainable. But I already feel more driven and motivated to perform now that trials are behind me.
There is no doubt that I worked very hard to prepare myself both physically and mentally for this race. However, I haven’t stop thinking about the fact that so did the other pair we raced. So much of my Olympic berth had to do with luck and timing. Luck and timing. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how hard you worked to get to where you want to be – you need that luck and timing on your side to get you there. Jamie and Amanda had one hell of a race…they didn’t make it easy for us in the least, and I really wish everyone in our training group could come and compete in London. Any success that our team has in London will be because of the girls in our training group who didn’t make the team. For now, my partner Sarah and I will continue to keep our heads down, learn as much as we can from our coaches, and get ready to throw it down on July 28. Can’t wait!
Out here grindin’.
p.s. Here’s our post-race interview where we describe what happened in the race: