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When You Don’t Go to the Olympics

How does it feel to fully expect to make the Olympic team for four years, only to fail to qualify at the one selection match for that event? Well, pretty terrible. I’ve run through my head countless times what I could have done to prepare better, different drills I could have tried, who I should have beat up (just kidding…maybe), and the good news is that there’s nothing I would have changed. The bad news is that there’s nothing I would have changed.

Sports really aren’t fair. At least in some regards. It’s not always the person with the most integrity who wins. It’s not even always the best player who wins. And that’s why sports exist, because anything can happen. It’s who scores the most points.

I’ve thought about if the US chose the Olympic team any other way (international ranking, national ranking, who won Olympic quota slots, etc.), then things would have turned out differently. But the honest truth is that everyone was well aware that the team hinged on one match, and that was the only chance. Those people thought they were making the right decision for everyone involved.

Who am I kidding? I’m not saying that let’s all just kiss and make up (hello, mono!). I disagreed with many of the decisions made, but as an athlete that matters very little to the people up top. Many of those decisions impacted me negatively (most people on the team could also say that), and I’m not blindfolded to the politics that shape the river I’m floating in.

OK, sob story over. To be frank, even before the Olympic team thing, I knew I wanted to be better. So any thoughts about how I may have “deserved” the spot (which in sports, there’s really no such thing as deserving something) are pretty nonproductive. If I want anything to change in the next four years, I just need to buck up. As much as I would love to say I’m an Olympian, the truth is that even if I had made the team, I would still be pushing to improve over the next four years.

So why did I say at the beginning of this that the bad news is that there’s nothing I would have changed? Because I have to live with the fact that my best wasn’t good enough, at least this time. Moving forward, there’s plenty of changes to be made (*cough* kneeling). I distinctly remember thinking while preparing for tryouts that my national team status, residency, and even the chance to try out for the Olympics was all just coincidental. That I really wasn’t that great of a shooter and my chances of winning were slim. And now I’m thinking, “Holy granole!” How did I even let myself believe that crap? Lack of confidence is a set-up for failure. Lesson learned: this is definitely a fixer-upper section, and the good news is I have four more years to work on it!

It’s really taken me a long time to work through this process, and will probably take some more time. I took quite a bit of time off to reflect (and travel, hike, camp, fish, read, breathe…) on who I want to be and what really makes me happy. I’ve definitely had a reality check by some of my close friends, who remind me that being a kinder, more selfless, loving (and now confident) person is more important than any chance of a medal I could have. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but I’ve survived so far.

And lastly, I can’t say it enough: thanks to everyone–family, friends, teammates, even the random encouraging strangers on social media–for your support. It means the world, and I truly wouldn’t be anywhere without it.

  • Riccardo

    Very right !!