It all seems a blur! The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi have come and gone. It all went by so quickly, I can not believe that they are over!
To those at home, the Olympic Games last 17 days. Seventeen days of glorious and intense sporting action that brings people together in their living rooms, bars and community centers. These Olympics in Russia have not been without their controversy, but, in true Olympic form, we saw a uniting of nations, and a generation inspired, all through sport.
We hear about the success stories, and how great the experience was for the athletes involved, but never do we hear of the time following an Olympic Games for an athlete. An Olympic Games may last 17 days on our television screens, but for an athlete the Olympics runs through their psyche everyday for many, many years. It's an all-consuming occupation wanting to be and becoming an Olympian, and for me personally, the Olympics consumed 12 years of my life.
Being a part of an Olympic Games in any way possible is an experience I would recommend to anyone. Whether as an athlete, volunteer, coach or spectator, being part of the world's largest sporting movement is something no one ever forgets.
Once the Olympics are over, those at home get on with their everyday lives, perhaps with a lasting inspiration or education of what they witnessed on television. For an athlete however, being consumed by one goal so immense can lead to the neglect of what comes next: What my life after the Olympics will be.
I personally have been victim to this quandary, twice! In 2006 I failed to qualify for the 2006 Games in Torino. I was devastated, depressed and mostly just lost. I had such tunnel vision to being at those Olympics and I failed to think of the "what-if." I spent far too long after not qualifying wandering aimlessly through life. I wouldn't say I had it easy, as at that time I was also dealing with accepting who I was -- trying to find the mental acceptance and visualization of who I was, could be and who I was going to become.
I stuck with skating through all of 2006 as I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was in October of 2006 when I was at a competition in South Korea that I found myself in some sorts. I found my love for speed skating, and I simultaneously set the goal of qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I said to myself that I was in control of my life, and in order to change it, I had to take charge of it!
Once 2009 rolled around and I was set to qualify for Vancouver, I came out to my family, friends and teammates. I was finally able to be the real me. I learned from my mistakes in 2006. Not being out wasn't a mistake in 2006, but not having a vision or being in control was! I always had the intention of going for another Olympics after 2010, but unfortunately I was being forced by an outside hand to give it up. It took some time, but I realized what it was that I wanted -- and that "want" was to be in Sochi in four year's time. Unfortunately Sochi wasn't meant to be for me, but I spent the four years after Vancouver preparing myself for life no matter the outcome.
Having such a long-winded and high-stakes goal such as a four-year Olympic campaign is no small task. Having a post-Olympic hangover and some down time and moments to reflect is completely healthy. Without coming across all high and mighty, there is something we can learn from Olympians. Four years is a long time to be focused on one goal, only to have it culminate and be done with in 17 short days. Seventeen days where you are a rock star, 17 days where you are a part of the greatest sporting movement on the planet, 17 days where your lifetimes worth of hard work, dedication and commitment is realized -- then over.
There are probably hundreds of athletes, from many different countries out there who are hung over. Some are most definitely hung over from alcohol, but for many, the Olympics itself is one big consumption where post closing ceremonies leave an athlete with a massive drop-off. We've all been on a vacation only to return home and be somewhat mad at being back to our daily routine, but we get over it as we know there will be another vacation. Heaven forbid we have to wait another four years for one!
Those athletes who hope to return to another games do not have that option of returning to normal life, and those who have given all they can to their sport are left to organize and address the next chapter in their lives after having dedicated most of it to becoming an Olympian. It is an achievement that may not necessarily define them entirely, but has made them the person they are today, and the person they will be far into the future.