The Truth Behind Elite Athletes

The Truth Behind Elite Athletes

Winning isn't everything
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With the Olympics coming to a close, it’s hard for me not to think about how the athletes are feeling now that it’s time to come home. I recently read this article which talks about life for athletes once the games are over and the challenge of building a new identity after athletes have finished competing. Immediately following my return to school after competing in the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games, I vividly remember one of my high school teachers talking to me about my experiences and asking me how I felt about “having peaked before leaving high school.” I know she didn’t mean any harm, but to be honest at the time this comment was kind of a slap in the face. I had just gotten into Dartmouth; I was ready for the next chapter of my life to be just as exciting as the past one.

Prepping for the Olympic or Paralympic games is a long, uphill battle and it’s incredibly easy to become hyper focused. Once the games are finished, it’s understandable that many athletes find it challenging to create an identity for themselves that doesn’t center around their athletic careers. Luckily for me, starting school at Dartmouth just months after competing in my first Paralympics forced me to build my identity around things other than skiing. In some ways this realization was actually a little refreshing. For the first time in my life, my peers knew me because of the classes I was taking, the extracurricular activities I was involved in, and probably because I’m the only legally blind student at Dartmouth if we are being really honest, instead of the skier who always seemed to miss school.

When I decided I wanted to continue competing shortly after coming to Dartmouth it forced me to reestablish myself as an elite athlete while still carefully balancing my life as a full time Dartmouth student. I often feel like I am living two completely separate lives and I find myself having to choose between one or the other. I chose to come to Dartmouth because I felt as though the D-plan, where students can take off from school at various points throughout the year, would be a great opportunity to allow me to commit 100% to skiing over the winter and 100% to school the rest of the time. Every athlete knows that there is always more work to be done, and unfortunately every Ivy League premed student also knows the same. When is it appropriate to spend the extra hour in the gym instead of studying for my organic chemistry final? It is impossible to prioritize one of my two completely separate lives over the other.

Like any athlete, the ultimate goal is to be the best in the world. Every day I try to do everything I possibly can to make that a realistic goal. However, I also know that I cannot ski race forever. Sometimes I find it disappointing that I can’t fully commit to my ski career like most of the athletes I am competing against, and I have to remind myself of the bigger picture. It’s easy to get caught up in that one big moment, and blame yourself for things that might have gone differently. For me, my first Paralympics made me realize that skiing is so much more than the medals I win. In athletics, competition tends to be presented as a single destination. It is very easy to forget that what's truly important are the obstacles that lead up to that destination, and how those experiences play a role in shaping an athlete's character. Skiing has shaped my character in ways that are reflected in all aspects of my life. I have learned to be independent, manage my time well, forgive myself when I fall short of my own expectations, and above all strive to be better than I was yesterday.

It is so important for athletes to enjoy their moment and to take in everything that competing at an elite level has to offer. However, it is arguably more important for athletes to understand that those moments are fleeting. Win or lose, medals are forgotten but acting honorably at times when it would be easy to get caught in the hyper-competitive nature that every world class athlete shares is what really separates respectable athletes from respectable people. Every athlete is a person first. There are core character traits that come along with being an elite athlete and those traits are evident in all aspects of an athlete’s life, even after they are done competing. Character is a culmination of all of someone's life experiences both on and off the playing field. When I compete in the next Paralympics in 2018 I will not be the exact same me who competed in the 2014 Paralympic Games, but I will be the best me that I can be in that given moment. And as for peaking, I’m usually pretty comfortable hurling myself downhill, but for some reason I kind of feel like it’s only up from here.

Cover Image Credit: Finn DeBaun

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20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."
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Cheerleading is something you'll never forget. It takes hard work, dedication, and comes with its ups and downs. Here are some statements that every cheerleader, past and present, know to be true.

1. You always had bobby pins with you.

2. Fear shot through you if you couldn't find your spankees right away and thought you left them at home.

3. You accumulated about 90 new pairs of tennis shoes...

4. ...and about 90 new bows, bags, socks, and warm ups.

5. When you hear certain songs from old cheer dance mixes it either ruins your day or brings back happy memories.

6. And chances are, you still remember every move to those dances.

7. Sometimes you catch yourself standing with your hands on your hips.

8. You know the phrase, "One more time, ladies" all too well.

9. The hospitality rooms were always one of the biggest perks of going to tournaments (at least for me).

10. You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."

SEE ALSO: How The Term 'Cheerlebrity' Destroyed Our Sport

11. If you left the gym at half-time to go get something, you better be back by the time the boys run back out.

12. You knew how awkward it could be on the bus rides home after the boys lost.

13. But you also knew how fun it could be if they won.

14. Figuring out line-up was extremely important – especially if one of your members was gone.

15. New uniforms were so exciting; minus the fact that they cost a fortune.

16. You know there was nothing worse than when you called out an offense cheer but halfway through, you had to switch to the defense version because someone turned over the ball.

17. You still know the school fight song by heart and every move that goes with it.

SEE ALSO: Signs You Suffer From Post-Cheerleading Depression

18. UCA Cheer Camp cheers and chants still haunt you to this day.

19. You know the difference between a clasp and a clap. Yes, they're different.

20. There's always a part of you that will miss cheering and it will always have a place in your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Doug Pool / Facebook

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Tiger Woods Looks To Eclipse Remarkable Comeback With A Win This Weekend

In the final event of the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship, Woods could complete one of the greatest comebacks in sports history with a win

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Even though I may be over 4000 miles away and five hours ahead of schedule, the fanatic fan that I am for Tiger Woods has not died down one bit. Entering the Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup and essentially the Superbowl of professional golf, Woods has a chance of eclipsing one of the greatest comebacks ever with a win this Sunday.

Woods, who hasn't played in this event since 2013 is still in search of a coveted first win in his comeback tour from injury. With a win here, on arguably one of the toughest golf courses in the world and against the top 30 players on the PGA tour, the legacy of Tiger Woods will forever be cemented in golf lure.

So yes, as I am in London studying for the fall term as an abroad student, my heart and soul are still intertwined with one of America's greatest sports icons. To demonstrate my commitment as a fan, I will share a little tale with how I have been able to keep up with Woods' play. On Thursday, the first day of competition, I strategically planned my day around when Tiger would tee off. Making sure to have computer access, I was able to watch his first three holes of the round. To say the least, I was mildly unimpressed. Starting off with a bogey and finding himself in the bottom half of the field, I figured I was only hurting Woods' performance by watching. I backed off, shut the computer down and went out for a meal.

I made a conservative effort to not stay glued to my phone for updates, feeling that if I let Tiger do what Tiger does best, then, sure enough, he would come around. I was right. Woods was able to turn around his bad start and with three holes left in his round he was tied for 2nd place and only two shots back. I had to see him finish out, I knew the good mojo was there.

I quickly made my way back to my dorm and was able to log onto a live feed just in time for Woods to tee off on the final hole of the day, a par 5. Sure enough, Tiger landed a beautiful shot on the green in 2, with a chance for eagle and a tie for the lead. It was all but too good to be true until it wasn't. With 30 feet to the hole, Tiger lined up his putt and gracefully took a tap at it as the world, and myself from the United Kingdom, watched him knock it into the hole and take a share of the lead entering the second day of competition.

The crowd erupted nearly as loud as I had from my dorm room. The energy was palpable and with a signature fist pump from our man, he took a gigantic step in the right direction towards capping off this unfathomable comeback.

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