While there won’t be any Gold Medals won this summer with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed, that doesn’t mean we should forget the Olympic mindset that athletes bring to the world stage every couple of years. The focus, determination, and resiliency of olympians are traits that we all should try to emulate as we navigate through this atypical summer, clouded by a global pandemic. Instead of tuning in to watch our favorite American athletes compete on a daily basis, this summer our only option is to reminisce on some of the best performances and most prolific athletes to stand on the podiums. Two of the most recognizable names for the casual olympics fan are probably Michael Phelps and Carli Lloyd, as both have had incredible success in their respective sports and have been rewarded for it.
Carli Lloyd is known for her incredible performances on the soccer field. She scored the remarkable game-winning goal in the 2008 and 2012 World Cup Championship and a hat-trick in the first five minutes of the World Cup Championship against Japan in 2015. Like Lloyd, Michael Phelps is an icon of success in the swimming world.
As one of the most decorated Olympians in history, he has proved himself to be worthy of plenty of medals, twenty-eight to be exact. He became the youngest male swimmer to set a swimming world record, when he was just 15 years old, and ever since his first Olympic victory in Athens in 2004 he has arguably been the most talented swimmer to ever compete. If you ask anyone about Michael Phelps I am sure they could tell you exactly where they were when he was making a serious splash in the olympic pool.
These athletes are known and recognized for their accomplishments, rightfully so, but their path to success was not a smooth, freshly paved road. For both these athletes, the road was filled with potholes, detours and bumper-to-bumper traffic. We remember their consistency and magazine cover-worthy performances, but only because they overcame failure after failure to reach their goals.
Carli Lloyd didn’t make the U21 national team. She even quit soccer following the disappointment, but was persuaded back into the game by her parents and trainer. Her trainer promised her that “she had to work hard every day and this had to be her number one priority over everything. As long as she did that, and had a better work ethic and had a better character and became mentally tough, she could go on to be the best player in the world”. Not making the team could have been it for Lloyd, the failure could have been the end to her career. She refused to let this be the case. She put in the work everyday to become better and this dedication and support from those around her took her to the top.
While Lloyd had to choose whether she was going to give up or work harder than she ever had before, Michael Phelps faced a whole different type of challenge. Shortly after his Olympic debut, Phelps was admitted into an addiction treatment center after being caught drunk driving in 2009 and an image of him smoking surfaced on social media. He struggled mentally and emotionally. Although it might seem like Phelps was born to be a swimmer, he learned the hard way that he would have to fight through internal and external road-blocks to be the best. After seeking help, Phelps went on to win numerous other events and never let his setbacks define him.
We praise Phelps and Lloyd for the accomplishments they have. We study them, learn from them and look up to them to become great athletes. When we think of Lloyd and Phelps it’s not that we discount their failures, but admire their success because the greatness far outweighs the failures. In a time where failure and doubt seem to keep hitting us left and right, we have a unique opportunity to channel our inner Lloyd and work harder than you did the day before. An opportunity to take a page out of Phelp’s book and work on yourself, so that your individual struggles don’t keep you from leaving the legacy you want to leave.