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The Olympics Aren't Just About Medals

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Like most of you, over the past two weeks I watched some of the 2012 London Olympics. Since the summer Olympics only come around once every four years, I definitely took advantage of time away from the racetrack to catch my favorite sports and athletes!

The last summer Olympics was in Beijing, China in 2008, and at that time I was only 13 years old. I can remember watching a few events with my dad in the evening after school, but I never put a lot of thought into what the Olympics were or what it meant for each of the athletes competing. I just knew it must be a really great feeling to wear a medal around your neck and stand atop the podium while hearing your national anthem. Now, four years later, I watched the Olympics a little differently. I admired each of the unique stories and backgrounds of the athletes. They are all so different in their own way, but at the same time, they share common ground -- to have their hard work payoff and achieve the goals they have been dreaming of!

Swimming is one of my favorite events to watch during the Olympics. Of course I enjoyed following fan-favorite Michael Phelps and watching him make history each time he competed as he continued to break records, win medals and set the bar in the sport of swimming even higher. Michael even attended our race at Baltimore last year, so that's definitely an extra reason to cheer him on!

Michael set strict and almost impossible goals for himself and I think this is what has made him into the athlete he is today. He always had something more to work towards and he challenged himself harder than any athlete I have ever seen. He will always be remembered as the most decorated Olympian in all of history with 22 medals -- well-deserved!

I also caught a little bit of the female swimming events. I admired the youngest athlete to represent the USA in the Olympics, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, who won a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle with the second-fastest swim of all time. I loved watching her reach her goal of winning a gold medal in her first appearance at the Olympics. It goes to show that age doesn't matter when you set your mind to something (Kinda has a Dara Torres ring to it?)! She will be remembered as the youngest athlete to represent the USA in the 2012 London Olympics.

The track and field events are my second-favorite thing to watch besides swimming. It reminds me a lot of being a racecar driver. You have to be fast, smooth and consistent. And also like racecar driving, one athlete proved that with hard work and dedication, you CAN do anything!

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius comes with a very inspiring story to this year's Olympic games. He became the first double amputee to compete in an athletics event at the Olympics when he made it the semi-finals of the 400-meter event. I was able to catch a glimpse of his running on TV in between my practice sessions at the racetrack. It was so inspiring to see the 25-year-old reach his goal and make history after battling with the Olympic authorities for several years to allow him to compete. He will always be remembered for his bravery and determination and is definitely a role model in my book.

Each year a new generation of athletes enters the field of sports and everyone is looking for that golden opportunity to achieve greatness. Whether you are an aspiring professional racecar driver like me or an Olympic hopeful, we all share that common ground to reach our goal and make our dreams come true. But this determination doesn't just apply to athletes; anyone can find their unique opportunity if they set goals, dream big and put in lots of hard work.

I can't wait to see what the future has in store for the next generation of youth as they aspire to one day make it to the Olympics and stand atop the podium as their national anthem rings out. It is so much more than a gold medal, a 30-second run or 10 laps in the pool -- it's about individuals reaching their goals because of hard work and determination. What are your favorite moments and stories from the 2012 London Olympics?