Each and every day I think about the 2016 Olympics in Rio and plan my activities to make sure I will be there!
After a long night of homework, I woke up before dawn this morning and went for a bike ride to get my heart beating and to pedal off some of the stress I have been building up lately. Pedaling away at 20+ miles an hour in the dark presents it’s challenges but it gave me time to think and review everything that has been going on and about the hectic schedule Jessica and I have coming up this winter in Miami. About 1/2 way through my ride I noticed the light was starting to appear and so I pulled into Deering Estates and down to the pier looking out over the bay When I stopped, there were two others there watching the sun come up on a brand new day. I stood there, watched in awe at the amazing scenery and just had to marvel at the wonders that God has given us all in our lives and how tremendous life is when each day can be a new beginning for us.
I had to pull out my phone and take a few photos of the sunrise…
As I was watching this amazing day begin, I thought about the source of much of my stress…
When I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to sail an Olympic Campaign for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. I had just finished my sailing career in the Optimist dinghy and was driven and determined to become a champion in this sport that I love so much and while there are a lot of options in sailing for teenagers, I just knew that sailing an Olympic campaign with the dream of representing my country in the Olympics when I was only 19 years old was what I needed and wanted to do more than anything. I knew that achieving my goal was going to be difficult, the average age of an Olympic sailor in the London games was 35 1/2 years old and that the process of sailing a campaign was difficult for anyone and would be even more challenging for someone my age but I was determined to give it everything I had to make it happen.
It seems like everyone I talked to told me it was impossible for someone my age to sail a campaign and win the US Trials. My friends all told me that I should sail Lasers or 420’s with them and to just take it slow and have fun. My coaches told me it would be too much work when I had to focus on high school and getting into college. My parents told me that I should think about college and my future but that if I was willing to put in the effort that they would support my dreams. Everyone thought I was crazy for even thinking about it and told me that I shouldn’t be so serious and to do something different. But this is what I needed to be doing.
I set my sights on winning an Olympic Gold medal and I started doing everything I could to make that a reality. I started training in the gym every day and sailing with a number of different people, I met with former Olympic Champions, talked with coaches and others to get advice and I kept moving forward towards my dream. I know that winning Gold at the Olympics is next to impossible for ANYONE but I also knew that I had to give it my all and to see what I could accomplish. It is not that I thought I was better than anyone, it is not that I assumed that I was a better athlete or a stronger sailor than others I just had to see what I cold accomplish and that required me to focus on being the best athlete I could be and to push myself further.
There are a lot of great sailors who never even think of sailing in the Olympics. There are amazing athletes in this sport that are sailing dinghies in highschool and college and many more who are sailing keel boats and enjoying the competition while making a name for themselves. I know that those people are having a lot of fun, are pursuing their dreams and are already or are on their way to becoming top athletes in this sport and in their lives in general. I do not think of myself as better than any of these people or think that their dreams are less important or challenging or inspirational than mine, I just need to see what I can become by pushing myself towards my Olympic dream.
I know that only one team in the USA makes it to the Olympics and that everyone who is sailing a campaign is fighting for that one spot. We are all focused, driven and are working hard to be the one who wins the US Trials. We all believe that we can be the best in our country and we all support, encourage and help each other to be the best we can be. In the end we all believe in ourselves and we all know that if we try our hardest, focus on our goals and take the steps to be the best we can be that we can win. In the end only one team will represent the USA in the NACRA 17…there will be only one Olympian.
I am not naive to the fact that I am the underdog. I am the youngest person sailing a campaign, I have the least experience in life and I struggle to meet my educational, athletic, financing and training goals every day probably more than the rest. I am 17 years old and lack the contacts to raise the funds I need to train with the right coaches, to pay for the endless list of equipment needed to perform at my best and to travel to the regattas I need to compete in to get a top world ranking. I know that the cards are stacked against me and that my chances are small, but I also know that there isn’t anyone that is as dedicated to their success and driven to do whatever it takes to become #1 and win the Trials in 2016.
I am in the same position as Oracle Team USA was in during the America’s Cup regatta last year. They were down in the dumps after being beaten race after race by the Kiwis and were only one race away from being eliminated…from losing THEIR Cup and everyone knew they were sailing a slower boat, with less experience foiling and had virtually no chance at all to win. They were all but done and the world knew that they had to win every race they sailed and if they lost just one race the regatta was over and the Cup was going to NZ. But they pressed on, they overcame their doubts, improved their boat and stayed focused on winning. One race after the next they won…all the way to the greatest comeback in all of sports history. They persevered, they believed, they won! Not one person on Oracle will tell you that they are better than their competition. They just never gave up and in the face of defeat they pulled off an amazing victory.
I believe in myself. It is not that I need to be an Olympion to feel good about myself. I don’t need to win a Gold medal at the Olympics to know my value or to be able to be a success. I am successful because I keep pushing myself in spite of the fact that I face numerous challenges. I am successful because I never give up. I am successful because I love what I am doing and I know with the right attitude, the right motivation and the right focus on hard work that I can achieve anything in my life.
Life isn’t ever easy. It takes hard work, determination, dedication and the belief that you CAN DO IT to achieve…anything in life. I am not sailing this campaign because it is easy or because I think I am better than others. I am sailing at this level because I want to see how far I can go and how hard I can push myself to keep going even when times get tough or people doubt my abilities or just think that I should slow down and do what everyone else my age is doing. I am not one to follow the pack. I set my own destiny and I am going to be a champion no matter what happens today, tomorrow or at any point in my life.
In the Olympics most people fail to win Gold. There is only one Gold Medalist in each discipline. That doesn’t mean that everyone who fails to win Gold…or fails to make their National Olympic Team is a failure, just the opposite in fact. Everyone who sets their goals beyond what others think they can achieve and works tirelessly to make it come true is exhibiting the Olympic spirit…they are already champions in their life.
My objective is to go to the Rio Olympics and to come home with a Gold Medal. I am working hard each and every day to make that happen. Win or lose, I am dedicated to my success and nothing will stop me from continuing to press on and to be the best athlete and the best person I can be today, tomorrow and forever in my life. It is the difficult times in life, the times when we are stressed or under pressure or have some doubt that we prove ourselves by picking ourselves up and trying one more time, again and again and again until we reach our goals.
Help Jessica and I reach our goal of winning Gold in the Olympics by donating to our campaign. Every person who supports our efforts sends a message that they believe in hard work, dedication and the undying ability of success to happen in everyone’s life.