I. LOVE. The Olympics.
Two days ago, I sat on my couch and finally tuned in to the most exciting international event of 2016: the Rio Olympics. I didn’t become a huge fan of the infamous games until 2012, when for the first time I witnessed the magnificence of Aliya Mustafina’s stage presence, the glow and optimism of Gabby Douglas, the grace of Aly Raisman’s floor routine, and the heartbreaking fate of Jordyn Wieber’s all-around potential. (If it wasn’t obvious already, gymnastics is my favorite sport to watch by FAR.) I would sit cross-legged on the floor with my cousin, late at night and barely a foot from the TV screen, avidly watching the gymnasts do the seemingly impossible. And if I still had it in me when the events were over—even after holding my breath and crossing my fingers during every pass—I’d stick around for the daily medal count and recaps.
It was during the London games when I understood the magnitude of what the Olympics represent. NBC’s coverage would often include features on the athletes’ childhoods, struggles, and intense training schedules, and those segments shed light on the many sacrifices they had made for their passion. At that point I realized these games involved so much more than outstanding athletic ability: it requires just as much, if not more, mental and emotional fortitude to be an Olympian.
Whether they are highly decorated or just debuting, I have so much respect for these athletes. It’s easy for this admiration to be initially directed towards their physiques—I mean, c’mon, they seriously look like they were sculpted to perfection! Then it tends to gravitate towards their skill and technique, and finally it hits the jackpot: the outrageous amount of drive that they all possess, which was behind every step in their journey to extraordinary athleticism. At this point, one could stay dreamy-eyed forever and simply label them as #goals.
But the problem with that is the fact that the admiration tends to stop there. Far too often, we turn potential role models into idols. We fail to recognize our own ability to become what we admire and embody the traits we yearn to have. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, instead of thinking that you’ll never be as great as an Olympian…why not try to emulate one?
To have this “Olympic mindset,” as I’ll call it, means to have a clear vision of what your goal is and to fall in love with that vision. It means overcoming obstacles and competition through skill alone, always in the most honorable and ethical way. It means upholding the tenets of sportsmanship whenever possible and remaining both fearless and hopeful when faced with adversity. And it means never making excuses, because you cannot expect to achieve greatness without putting in the hours.
You don’t have to be standing on a podium, with a medal around your neck, to feel like an Olympian. Nor do you need the best equipment, millions of spectators, or your country’s pride resting on your shoulders to perform at your best.
Gold is a mindset.