American Olympic Athletes To Watch

American Olympic Athletes To Watch

Let's cheer on Team USA as they bring home the gold.
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14 days. 206 countries. Over 11,000 athletes. The Summer Olympics are here! I don't know about you, but there's just something so incredible about watching athletes from all over the world come together for a little friendly competition (as I lounge on my couch in pajamas eating cookie dough). And of course, who better to cheer for than our very own Team USA? Each and every one of these athletes is exceptionally talented, but there are going to be a couple of big names thrown around throughout the games that you should pay attention to.

Gymnastics

Simone Biles: She was too young to compete in the London games, but she won 10 gold medals at the World Championships (a new record). She even has a new gymnastic routine move named after her! She will be joined in Rio by her teammates Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez.

Sam Mikulak: The Michigan alum is expected to lead his team to victory after the men's team finished with an embarassing fifth in London in 2012. Mikulak has been described as the greatest American male gymnast of his generation and is a four-time national champion. Both of his parents were skilled gymnasts, so it's only natural that he's expected to be a front runner.

Swimming

Michael Phelps: The most decorated Olympian of all time will be returning for his fifth and final Olympic Games. Phelps has decided to come out of retirement to add a couple more medals to his already impressive collection of 22 medals (18 of those are gold). He will be swimming the 200m individual medley, the 100m butterfly, and the 200m butterfly.

Missy Franklin: She will be defending her Olympic title as the fastest women's 200m backstroker. Missy also holds the American record for the fastest 100m and 200m backstroke. You can watch for her in the 200m freestyle and the 200m backstroke.

Katie Ledecky: Considered one of the most versatile swimmers ever, you can watch for Ledecky in the 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle.

Track and Field

Justin Gatlin: Gatlin won gold and bronze in the 2004 Olympics, and has a very good chance of beating Usain Bolt (the fastest man in the world!) in the 100m dash. He lost to Bolt in the World Championships last year by a hundredth of a second. With Bolt recovering from a hamstring injury, Gatlin might just be able to beat him.

Ashton Eaton: Ashton Eaton might be 2016's Bruce Jenner. After winning gold in the decathlon at the London games, he's favored to win this year as well. He's one of the only two athletes in history to earn more than 9,000 points in the decathlon.

Allyson Felix: I'm partially biased towards Allyson Felix because she spells her name the same way that I do, but she's a serious contender on the track. Returning for her fourth Olympic Games, she's looking to add 2 more gold medals to her collection of 4 in the 200m and 400m dash.

Jenn Suhr: Jenn Suhr has been America's best pole vaulter for 10 years, holding the world record at 16-5.5 feet (5.02 meters). She's super close to beating the Olympic record, which is 16.56 feet (5.05 meters).

Beach Volleyball

Kerri Walsh Jennings: Kerri will be competing for the first time without her partner Misty May-Treanor. The pair has won 21 consecutive matches, and has only lost one set. Her new partner is April Ross.

Soccer

Women's Team: The women's team will be going for their third consecutive Olympic gold led by co-captains Carli Lloyd (midfield) and Hope Solo (goalkeeper).

Tennis

Venus and Serena Williams: The sisters that play together, slay together. Isn't that what they say? The Williams sisters have a great chance of winning their fifth gold medal in doubles, and Serena has a good chance of medaling in the singles tournament.

Golf

Bubba Watson: Golf hasn't been played in the Olympics for 112 years! Bubba Watson has won two Masters Tournaments, and is also a left-handed golfer, which is pretty unusual.

Water Polo

Women's water polo: Our women's team is favored to win the event. The goalkeeper, Ashleigh Johnson, is the first black American woman to compete in water polo.

Cover Image Credit: Sporting News

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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