Lessons Learned From Female Olympic Athletes
by: CrossFit Central Women
We’ve been watching the Olympics, daily. We even have a computer hooked up to the TV in CrossFit Central’s lobby so we can stream The Olympics all day long! What can we say, we love competition and the Olympics is the upper echelon of sport. This year is full of amazing stories of overcoming adversity, discipline and consistency, athlete’s dreams materializing and some bad ass female competitors! Below a few life lessons we’ve picked up from female Olympians.
Sometimes The Unexpected Happens
This past weekend American, McKayla Maroney was a favored to win the gold by a landslide on vault. Even though McKayla practiced perfectly and delivered amazing performances all week long, when it was her shot for the gold she slipped up. The performance she delivered in that moment shocked the crowd, her USA teammates and even the announcers .“I didn’t deserve to to win gold if I landed on my butt,” Maroney said. “I’m not disappointed about the silver, I’m disappointed about my performance.” Sometimes you can be perfect. You can train and be as prepared as possible, but in a split second your “expected” course can change. Take a note from McKayla – she got up, dusted herself off and didn’t blame anyone or anything else for her poor performance. At such a young age she took responsibility, and after years of training, she knew that on that day, in that moment, she didn’t deserve 1st place.
Women’s Bodies Aren’t Just for Sexual Objectification?
Women’s Athletics has come a long way since “the Boston Incident” when Kathrine Switzer challenged the then all male Boston Marathon. The truth is that the majority of people have taken notice of the magnitude and talent of female competitors and the advancement of women in sport. But there are always a few that try to keep progression down. This year’s Women’s Olympic Weightlifting competition brought us social media buzz that had nothing to do with the competitors performance but instead focused on their “looks”. Twitter feeds filled with spectator’s comments claiming the female weightlifters weren’t pretty enough, that they were too manly or merely dissected the athlete’s genetic makeup. To which 18 year-old British Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith responded with “[We] don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive?”
Women’s Weightlifting was added as an Olympic Sport only 12 years ago in 2000. These women continue to prove that they are STRONG, they are BOLD, they are BEAUTIFUL and they are FEARLESS competitors.
Words Can Speak Louder Than Your Actions
In the world of social media, your words can speak louder than your actions. Not only can they speak louder, but they are forever ingrained, written in history for people to continuously reference. When Greece’s triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou tweeted “With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!” the Olympic committee barred her from the 2012 Olympics. After years of endless dedication and training her dreams were killed by one sentence. The lesson here is simple – don’t be an idiot. Firstly, you should respect everyone. And on a social media note – realize how powerful your words (especially virtually) are. And if you are in a leadership position or ever aspire to be in a leadership position, take care of your legacy.
Not only has this young lady captured our hearts and left us sitting at the edge of our seats awe-inspired by her fierce competitiveness and unbelievable talent, but her smile will forever radiate through Olympic history. At 14 years old she moved away from her family to chase after her dream. Her family sacrificed both emotionally and financially so Gabby could go after greatness. And greatness she achieved. Gabby became the first African-American female to win the gold in all-around gymnastics. That smile represents her story, discipline, focus and inspires generations of women and young girls to go chase their dream too.
The final two lessons come from our very own, Ingrid Kantola. She is a CrossFit Games competitor, a recent graduate of The University of Texas Masters Program and was an All-American pole vaulter for UCLA. Ingrid is also a MAJOR Olympics fan, meeting friends as early as 5am to watch and root on the Olympic competitors.
Combacks Are Sweet
In 2008 Local Austin (& UT Alum) Athlete Sanya Richards-Ross (married to NFL player Aaron Ross) arrived at the Beijing Olympics as a favorite and was sure to take home the gold. She came in 3rd place that year and was left wondering what went wrong. But Sanya was fighting something much bigger than the track and her fellow athletes. For five years Sanya battled an autoimmune disease called Behcet’s syndrome and a misdiagnosis. This year she arrived in London with new treatment, a new perspective and gold-bottomed cleats. She dominated the 400m field and took home the Gold!
Jenn Suhr, a pole vaulter from New York, took up the sport relatively recently (in 2004) and quickly rose to the top of the US rankings. In 2008 Jenn took the silver and got a lot of grief about her coach being too hard on her on camera. She defended his response because she had asked what she had done wrong, and he answered honestly. The world record holder from Russia has been off of her game for the past year or so and Jenn’s coach (now her husband as well) told her she would win it before the competition. She battled cold, head windy and wet conditions to jump every bar except the last one on her first attempt. This clean record provided her the gold medal. Jenn didn’t smile much on camera after she won, but was obviously was overcome with emotion, hugging and crying her coach/husband. Jenn has also battled injuries over the past few years, with Achilles problems. She trains just with her coach in a quonset hut style facility on their property in upstate New York. She is definitely a tough cookie.
(photos courtesy of USA Today, The News Tribune)
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