Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. Never former; Never past. This is our Olympic motto and signifies a bond we share transcending our sport, our Games, and even our country. Even though I am a Summer Games athlete in the sport of rowing in 1980 & 1984, I feel a strong kinship with those competing in Sochi.
As I watch these Winter Games, I am reminded Oympians often share a special fellowship within our particular sport for our competitors. It heartens me to see the group hugs, and the hands held together at the podium in victory. In this sense, I truly believe the Olympics promote world peace.
Many Olympians will also tell you that luck and timing are involved in an athletic event which happens only once every four years. You can be the best in the world, and still might not be the best on that particular day. I feel for the legendary Shawn White leaving Sochi without an individual medal.
We all can testify to the pressure of striving to do our very best in competition. As 1984 Olympic gold medalist skater Scott Hamilton said, “It’s like having to tie your shoes in less than 5 seconds with a million people watching.” Scott may have heard his national anthem played, but he was also shaking his head, unsatisfied because his long-skating program was not up to his standards.
To help with the nerves, my advice to competitive athletes is to practice as if you were competing, and compete as if you were practicing. On the surface, that might seem to fly in the face in the victory of Sage Kotsenberg in snowboarding. He was the epitome of cool as he nailed the 1620 jump — something he had never tried before– and won the gold medal in the slopestyle. But, as I see it, I’m sure he practiced every day, smacking his gum and making up moves as he went along his daily runs. That guy makes me laugh. I’m glad he didn’t change it up on the biggest day of competition in his life.
Fellowship, a nod to luck, a quest for excellence, and a dash of nerve: These are just a few of the many attributes that binds Olympians into a community that lasts a lifetime. I am humbled to be a part of this group and a member forever.
Once an Olympian, always an Olympian.
Kelly Mitchell is on staff at PLNU in University Advancement. She won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympic Games and was named Captain of the Women’s Olympic Rowing Team.