26 March 2020 Life is the most beautiful and sacred “Gold” there is While for some athletes there may be some threaded feelings of sadness over the Olympics being postponed, when all is said and done there would be even greater sadness if the Olympics carried on as planned this year—at the cost of peoples lives.
Several friends and fans have sweetly messaged me condolences upon seeing the news, which feels strange each time I read the words ‘I’m sorry’ because while I feel immense gratitude and am thankful for the thoughtfulness and encouraging support of my friends and family’s expression of concern, my condolences go to our loved ones and each of us suffering losses due to consequences and complications of the corona virus. My feeling about the decision to postpone the Olympics mirror gratitude and restored hope. I am overcome with relief that the IOC has made a decision that fully and wholly represents the Olympic Charter-- Everything I value about the Olympics, and is what gives the spirit of the Olympics and Olympism significance.
A question and expression that’s trending this past week for several Olympians and those of us on the cusp of becoming an Olympian has been “I’m so sorry the Olympics have been postponed” and “How has the postponement of the Olympics affected you? What are your feelings about the IOC postponing the Olympics for another year?
Only three weeks prior my writing this, Deirdre Fitzpatrick of KCRA3 interviewed me and Nick Christie to talk about the months ahead of us and to provide a snapshot of the backstory that encompass this Tokyo Olympic journey—it was looking like a promising Olympic year for us. Now, three weeks later, DecathlonUSA’s Amanda Loudin and Deirdre have asked me for my feelings about the Tokyo Olympics being postponed to 2021. My response: RELIEF...which seemed to take Deirdre off-guard: She inquires further, indicating that my relief is not a response people would normally expect from an athlete having her most successful year and is on the brink of making her Olympic debut. So I attempt to illustrate the web of reasons in an email harnessing a leading principle of mine: Health and Wellness—something I’ve learned to value as the foundation for something more sacred than gold: the opportunity to LIVE, to be alive.
I had an incredible season this year and I am undoubtedly ready for BIG things. Regardless of when Olympics are hosted I do what I do purely because of passion for sport and my appreciation for the benefits of fitness. A schedule change shouldn’t (and for me doesn’t) change our WHY we do and pursue our dreams for reality. Since staying tethered to home in quarantine potentially protects mine and others health, I’m still achieving my goal and staying true to my Why. I have trust and faith in my self-discipline, the unmatched world class coaching provided to me by my coach Jacinto Garzon, and God the Universe that when it’s safe for all of us to be present on the Olympic stage (and accompanying competitions that pave the way to that starting line), I will be ready.
I will be ready (as I have no doubt others will be, too) because everything we should value about the Olympics is what this quarantine is reminding all of us of: What's truly important is mutually understanding that our health is our most sacred gift and should be something we covet and protect. This quarantine is encouraging us to stop and pause—smell the roses; to think about others AND ourselves simultaneously (not to put one ahead of the other) because when it comes down to it, we truly are all connected. Each other’s health affects our own health and wellness to some varying degree—even when we’re unaware.
This quarantine is encouraging us to do activities I’m already accustomed to doing: run, walk, explore and innovate ways to keep fit and the body and mind strong—this is an opportunity to fine-tune anything we’re already doing or to start doing what we’d been postponing due to conflicting obligations. Our only obligation is what should always be our number one obligation: our health and wellness. Flexibility and the ability to work with the circumstances presented is key for success—key for success at anything. This is a golden horizon that is exciting and will make us all stronger as we rise above our shared fear. Part of maintaining our health is through our immune system and we can keep our immune system strong with aerobic and anaerobic activity, meditation and or daily joint mobility routines, keeping our body agile by utilizing concepts of yoga and Pilates, and harnessing feelings of gratitude. To help you through this rough time, whenever you feel your mind begin to spiral, list 3-5 things you are grateful for.
I’m grateful for family and friends—family and friends I very much want to remain healthy and alive. I’m grateful that we have doctors, scientists, and cooperating patients courageously working together to develop a vaccine so that we can globally put a stop to this virus. Because of these doctors, scientists, patients undergoing treatment, and those of us cooperating with quarantine I can also be grateful that we still have the Olympics to look forward to next year. In other general circumstances, we’d have to wait another four years. What’s another year on top of four when we’re already putting in the work and time? My motto at the beginning of the year reflects my general feelings on my athletic pursuits: Que sera, sera. What will be, will be. I’m confident in what my body is capable of. God willing, I’ll get a chance to finally show the world on a world stage with others....when the time is right— when our lives and wellbeing are not at risk. None of us know what’s going to happen. This Covid-19 pandemic has shown us this truth. It’s okay and reasonable to be fearful these changes will hurt you. But maybe these changes will help—help us all turn a new leaf; benefit us by opening a new door for us by giving us another winning perspective...giving us an opportunity to preform even better: faster, fitter, stronger with a fierceness and confidence gained from prevailing through this scary worldwide challenge.
JUST FLOW WITH IT It’s taken me a week to organize the entire foundation of the WHY supporting my response of RELIEF with words that I feel will best illustrate:
- my general feelings about the Olympics and what the Olympics signify; - my personal ‘why’ for why I even compete in Sport; - and some under-the-surface feelings I have been jousting since my stepping away from Sport in 2004, and, my return to Sport in 2015 through present.
The whole reason I stepped away from competing in organized Sport entirely from 2004 until 2014 was due to my intent to find my way back to health and mental well-being. College had not only fully granted me as much education as the Universities credit-limit would allow me, it also planted an eating disorder that begun to eat away at the why I had started competing and participating in athletics in the first place...I was starving and purging what I and so many other athletes value most about athletics: health and fitness. The disorder occurred after a college coach compared my weight to a competitor. Months later a teammate helped open my eyes when she said: “I remember you in high school. You were such a badass. When did you stop racing and running because you love running....to just running simply to lose weight?” That gave me pause.
When did this transition occur? I hadn’t even noticed...
Then in February of 2004 I received the terrible news that Al Heppner, a top men’s USA race walker I looked up to for his mentorship and for sharing the same birth date, had taken his own life after not qualifying for the Olympic Team in the Men’s 50km Race Walk. I remember my emotions in that moment vividly. I slid down the wall I was leaning against and onto the floor, and I cried uncontrollably. The Olympics are supposed to embody a celebration of life—the world uniting to signify peace among one another and celebrate health and fitness at its finest. How can something that represents something so beautiful also be an unintended culprit leading far too many athletes to do horrible things to their self—body, mind and soul: from eating disorders to taking one’s own life, and, doping simply due to insecurities an individual or coach may have of their own personal worth and value.
So on that February day in 2004 I made a promise to myself, to the deceased, and to anyone who has succumbed to an eating disorder, with my own personal creed that happens to resonate with what Olympism signifies: Nothing is more precious than our health and wellbeing—our opportunity to LIVE. I called my parents and coach and informed them of what was at the time the most difficult decision I had ever made: my intention of a full-exit from competitive Sport until I can regain my health—until I can successfully eliminate the eating disorder and re-unite with being one of my best friends...a decree that I will not return to Sport until I know I am healthy and re-balanced, and that I am doing it for the reasons I value first and foremost about Athletics and the Olympics: the sheer curiosity of what the mind and body can accomplish on the merit of fitness and health at it’s pure finest.
I had qualified for the 2004 Olympic Trials, so, I decided I’d try to get my eating disorder under wraps and make my exit from competitive sport a more uplifting one....but red flags hadn’t stopped at an eating disorder. The eating disorder had weakened my body’s ability to recover properly after workouts, so, during a hill repeats session I ended up straining my Achilles a couple months before the 2004 Olympic Trials. I suppose the events and occurrences of 2004, and the head injury that brought me back to Sport in 2015, are why I find comfort in the postponement of the Olympics during this pandemic.
For years I had felt disappointed and let down by the IOC’s corruptness. I jousted with feelings of conflicting wonder. Is my pursuing the Olympics, even under my own personal creed, making me guilty by association of taking part in an activity that seems to increasingly no longer embody the Olympic creed? And yet I simultaneously harness feelings of humble pride to be able to compete at a World Rank level, which is the “cherry on top” of simply exploring optimal fitness strategy, and, my commitment to living a healthy lifestyle for the sanctity of wellness—mind and body, the embodiment of Olympic spirit.
Fundamental Principles of Olympism as defined in the published in 2019 Olympic Charter:
“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combing in balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with the view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
The Olympic founder, Pierre de Coubertin, intended for the Olympic existence to ‘place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind...promoting a peaceful society concerned with preservation of human dignity’.
Our duty and responsibility as a one world nation is to respect and harness each other’s opportunity to LIVE, to protect our species health from being taken over by plagues and pandemics, so that we can have the opportunity to unite and celebrate humanity with dignity via placing our core values into the principles of fitness: health and wellness.
Without our health, we are denied access and opportunity to pursue our dreams to make our dreams reality—be it dreams pertaining to athleticism, productions and creativity, business, medical; whichever dreams an individual human may have and shares with others. The Olympism promise is “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport....in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
While some of us may have only one dream and others of us have no dreams, I’m among friends and acquaintances who harness multiple dreams. My desire is that we have a fair play chance at pursuing and living out our dreams. Health comes first—our Olympic creed—so that the surface level perks of health and fitness can shine for all of us. As a one world nation WE ARE now dressed in a uniform of compassion, respect for one another’s health and our shared opportunity to Life.
NUTSHELL takeaways - switching from race mindset to health mindset
Life is the most beautiful and sacred “Gold”, and, our health enables us to hold onto that Gold for at least a little while.
Focus on, and remind yourself that our health is most important above all, and when we ignore it—Mother Nature, a friend, swoops in to remind us to take a pause. We have the chance to save ourself and others by utilizing this time to fine-tune details that make us stronger, fitter and faster at overcoming. I’ve seen and experienced a glimpse of how this can all work out. Every Olympics I have pursued, so far: 2004, 2016, and 2020 has had something come up to put that dream on pause—and the reason is always health related:
2004 Eating disorder weakened my body (and my mind). Stepping away helped me regain a positive and nourishing relationship with my body so that, little did I know at the time, in 2015 I can return to sport—something I had to remove myself from entirely because doing it was killing me no differently than it had Al Heppener and other athlete’s lives—I was able to return to sport with a regained awareness of the value of health and use what almost killed me as the tool it is intended for: harnessing and celebrating health.
2016 Calf injury due to not tending to the original injury in 2004 properly, which forced me to have to accept I wasn’t going to be able to compete at my fullest ability that year. Slowing down so that I can invest in my speed later helped me to take the time to focus on fine tuning a crucial detail I had postponed due to distraction of a conflicting obligation: needing to work multiple jobs and long hours to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach from 2004 through 2016. The pause forced me to develop a healthier relationship with (and appreciation for) the gym and swimming—which ended up helping me return in 2017 truly STRONGER, FITTER, and ready to be even FASTER.
2020 - merely another pause for the betterment of humankind and all our health This Covid-19 forced pause is allowing me and US an opportunity to further fine-tune the supporting muscle groups that a commitment to a full competitive season’s schedule conflicts makes difficult to do. Now not only I—but we ALL—can use this time to harness the details that make us a better version of ourself.
Be it while we are in quarantine or those of us on the frontline of medical and essential jobs during this crises—this is our opportunity to really focus on fine-tuning the key details for optimal heath and fitness: washing our hands properly, drying them properly, respecting each other’s and our own sense of space, valuing ourself and others’ opportunity to live our LIFE, and being more mindful of what our body and mind are communicating so that....
2021 or whenever We come back STRONGER, FITTER, FASTER and feeling HIGHER on life than previously ever because now we truly are UNI