I missed my calling, one that is too late to resurrect despite my relentless dissecting of how to turn a dream into reality. I should have been a professional athlete, an Olympian. Absolutely nothing is more satisfying to me than the thrill of athletic competition. It’s why I’ve bounced from sport to sport since quitting gymnastics fifteen years ago. I crave winning. I enjoy pushing my body to the breaking point. Not many people do. My most memorable accomplishments involve sports – receiving a perfect ten in gymnastics, beating an older girl in a school race when I was in first grade, and winning second place in a ski school downhill ski race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Pure glory.
Every two years I feel a twinge of jealousy in the pit of my stomach for the athletes that walk the opening ceremonies of either Olympic games. That could have been me gearing up for the most significant performance of my life. Could it have though? Could I have achieved Olympic status for any sport? I’d like to think yes though maybe not in gymnastics (Lord knows all fearlessness fizzled with age). I have the drive and athleticism. I would have found my mark if I wanted it bad enough when I was younger. Look at Lolo Jones who failed to medal in either of her summer Olympics appearances. She’s now competing in the winter games for bobsledding. Dreams never die.
Like millions of Americans, I tune into NBC prime time to hum the Olympic hymn and watch the games. By prime time though, I already know the outcomes. I live stream events on my iPad throughout the day (the Men’s 500M long track speed skating was streaming as I began this post) and I continually check the stats to know the standings. I root for the underdogs, the Sage Kotsenburg’s of the world who decide to pull tricks they’ve never before attempted, and the humble front runners like Jamie Anderson. My heart sinks when athletes falter in what is likely their only shot at an Olympic dream. All that most athletes can hope for is to perform well. American mogul skier, Heidi Kloser, tore her ACL during the opening freestyle training run and dropped out of the competition prior to the start of the games. En route to the hospital, Kloser asked her parents if she was still considered an Olympian even though she was unable to compete. While the answer is yes, her dream of competing was abruptly cut short. The mental and physical exhaustion endured during a lifetime of training has been thrown into the black hole of Olympic dreams. The “what if” will nag from the back Kloser’s mind for eternity unless she stages a comeback for 2018.
Not only do I feel for those athletes who fumble, at times I also become too emotionally invested. When the men’s American hockey team lost to Canada in the 2010 gold medal game, I felt that I also missed out on the gold. It took me an hour at the gym to subdue the thoughts of “my” loss and snap back into reality. When Michael Phelps swam his final race in 2012, I watched the end of an era unfold before my eyes and I speculated about his future much as I imagine he did.
I’ve always been able to spend hours at the gym molding my body into its desired muscular form. I often wonder about the training regiments of these world-class athletes because nutrition and body weight varies by the sport. As a track and field hurdler, Lolo stayed at a lean and muscular 133lbs but had to gain about 30lbs of extra muscle as a bobsledder since weight distribution matters. She is currently at her heaviest weight ever but carries the 160lbs differently than a non-athlete. How do the cardio and weight training techniques differ between these two sports? I intend to research such things and start an all around athletic blog for people who want to train like a specific athlete. More to come on this blog concept in the future as it requires quite a bit of research for each post. If I can’t be an Olympian, I might as well write about how to train like one.
For now, I will sit back and cheer on Team USA from the comfort of my couch. I’ll annoy my family by spouting out various details of the events I learned that day- many riders thought the slopestyle course was too dangerous or Jamie Anderson’s tree hugging ritual. It makes me sound like a pro, which I am far from. I’m just eager to learn as much about these events and athletes as I can. And when I find something that engages my mind and spirit in such a manner, I know passion is at the core. Some people were born to be athletes. I am one of them.