August 19, 2012
To everyone who has been a part of my Olympic journey, whether last week, last year, or from the very beginning, we did it! To go to the Olympics has been a goal of mine since I started eventing, but it was always so far away, and with so many things that could go wrong, I’m not sure I believed it was actually going to happen. On every step of the way, I have had the most amazing people become a part of my life. This includes coaches, vets, farriers, and sponsors who have believed in me and my horse more than I did, and people who opened up their households and looked after me like their own, some who did not even know me. The group of people who have gathered around me, teaching, helping, humbling, and supporting me is truly remarkable. The saying goes “it takes a village,” well my village spans many states and many countries.
Throughout the team selection process I was considered a long shot, and I viewed the lead up to the games as a good learning experience for the next Olympic cycle such that I would be more prepared to try for 2016. When I was named to the team, I was overjoyed, relieved, and proud of the accomplishment, but then we went straight into training camp for the next 5 weeks which was an incredibly tense and high pressure situation. To say it was enjoyable would be wrong, but it was a huge learning experience and a lesson in mental toughness. Once we got to the venue, a part of me wanted to take a big look around and say ‘wow, we’ve really made it to the Olympics’, but I tried instead to treat it like every other competition, to take the pressure off, and make it like just another day at work. Unfortunately, from start to finish, things did not go the way I had scripted them. In all three phases we did not give the performance that we could have and should have given. To reach such a huge stage and under-perform was enormously disappointing. Most of all, I felt responsibility toward my team for how my result affected them, and responsibility toward all the people who have supported us to make the team. With the wisdom of hindsight, I would do so many things differently. There were so many hiccups that seem obvious now but were not clear before, and so many mistakes that could have been prevented with a little “heads up” or a different preparation. And while it’s traditional to spend the next year finding people and reasons for why team USA didn’t win every medal, I will take the responsibility for my performance squarely on my shoulders. I am responsible for how I trained, or didn’t train Finn. I am responsible for what I did, or didn’t do leading up to, and during the event. There are so many things that I can take away from this experience. If I can’t take a medal home, the next best thing I can do is learn everything I possibly can from it, and move forward. If I am lucky enough to make another team in the future, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that I will be a wiser, better competitor for having been to this Olympics. Making this team is an experience that can’t be allowed to go to waste.
When competition finished for us, I half-heartedly went to the Olympic Village for two days, to have my “wow, I’ve made it to the Olympics” time, although I was feeling rather down about it all by then. Seeing all the other athletes, and going to some of the other sports, and studying top class athletics of all types was time well spent. I’m truly glad I did that because it was fascinating, inspiring, and really gave me a chance to just appreciate the accomplishment that is getting to the Olympics. Every day, in every sport, someone is having a good day, someone is having a bad day, dreams come true, and dreams are crushed, but everyone there is an Olympian. I am thankful I took those two days in the Village because they are a huge part of what I will remember as my “Olympic experience.” I have come home incredibly motivated and with a clear plan of how to use the next four years. With just Finian to my name, I am terribly lacking in horsepower. The time to be bringing on horses for the future is now. And while Finn has earned a bit of a rest, I’m itching to get back to work and start improving things. I am busying myself studying competition video and riding youngsters without stirrups to keep me from pulling Finn in from the field and tacking him up! Fortunately he has come home from the games in great shape and looks ready to crack on. I look forward to getting him back into work, and with a bit of luck, having a few others as well to be aiming at the next team.
Getting to the Olympics was the big goal that was far off in the distance. We did it. Next time I want a medal, and preferably the most valuable kind!