On July 29, 1992, I walked into the Barcelona Olympic swimming stadium with much less energy than I was hoping for, but a ton of determination. And after eight swims in four events, on the last day of the swimming competition, I won an individual Olympic gold medal. I was 19 years old, and with every year that goes by, my Olympic memories mean more and more to me.
To be honest, I had to go online to research the actual date of the 200 butterfly. The experience was such a whirlwind, I couldn’t remember. I had hoped to write something about my 19th anniversary on the actual date, but by the time I got around to checking, the date had passed. Life is even busier now than it had been back then. In 1992, I was a junior at Stanford University. Stanford had so many Olympic athletes that they developed an Olympic quarter where those competing could take 8 units instead of 12 and still be considered "full-time" students. (All schools probably do this, I just wanted to brag about Stanford for a second…thank you) I was training for the Games, going to school, fulfilling sponsor obligations and on Wednesdays, talking to the media.
Nineteen years ago, I was still a teenagers with long scraggily hair (I hadn't cut it since the 7th grade when my mom convinced me to go with the "Dorothy Hamill" haircut.) It was bad, and I never cut it again. My hair was in rough shape to say the least, but it was perfect for tying in a knot. I had not quite grown out of my “baby fat” stage and had some serious shoulders. At the time, I don't even remember ever really taking in the moment of being a "gold medalist", I just remember feeling VERY relieved and wanting more than anything to be around my family.
Since, my medals have been through many airport screenings, and have brought grown men to tears. I have had neighborhood children knock on my door, asking if they can see them…to which I always say, "Of course." The most common comment after holding my medals is, "They are so much heavier than I thought they would be." And to my kids, they are the coolest ribbons won at a swim meet, EVER. They asked me just recently, "How can we win some of those ribbons?"
To me, my medals and my Olympic experience still symbolize years of hard work, not just by me, but by my family, teammates and coaches. They are so much more than just medals, and every year they become so much more. They have been with me during every step on my life during the past 19 years; they have made me a better wife, a better mother, a better friend and daughter.
Here’s to another 19 years! To Olympic Dreams fulfilled, and the Olympic hopefuls awaiting their opportunity…