Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting and working on Olympic athletes in distance running, hockey and figure skating. They are a different breed and if you spend any time with them you will quickly feel their intense competitive nature and their overall grasp of the human body and what works well for them. Such was the case with the closing session. I was very excited to first be able to meet each athlete, Bonnie Blair; speed skating extraordinaire, Kerri Strug; the dynamo gymnast, Alicia Dana the fearless Para Olympic cyclist and Abby Wambach one of the most dominant players in USA women’s soccer history. Although it was a brief meeting, each of them were very kind and seemed genuinely happy to be there.
Later in the afternoon was the actual panel discussion. Each athlete was introduced to a rousing ovation and started by individually telling their story. Although each story was different, they all shared the same perserverance and had the same general theme of never giving up. Interestingly enough, each Olympian was the youngest sibling in their respective families.
When speaking of how she improved over the years, Kerri stated “the fundamentals are crucial and repetition is the key”. In other words, practice practice, practice is the athlete’s friend. Alicia commented that her driving force “was mental toughness and the desire not to fail.” One of the more interesting quotes for me was from Abby when she said “failure can be ones greatest achievement.” That quote could be applied to just about anyone in their every day life.
Many of them talked at length about massage and how instrumental it was in recovery for each of their sports. Going back the to the mid 1980’s Bonnie reminisced how if you wanted clean sheets, you would have to go early. Each of them in part also explained how besides addressing their physical needs, massage therapists became their confidence booster and an important person to vent to when they were struggling. It became apparent that massage therapy was and still is an intricate part of an Olympians training and competition.
In the end they were all brought up on stage to sit together and take questions. It was fun to watch them all interact, women whose individual competition spans over 30 years! If you looked at each sport, they had nothing in common, yet in reality they had everything in common. They looked like they really enjoyed the panel, the discussion and each other. I will end with a quote from Bonnie that again is a great reminder for all of us. “Follow your passion, work hard and push yourself. Enjoy the journey.”
Kerry L Methot