Watching the extreme emotions of the athletes at the USATF Track and Field Olympic Trials earlier this month, from the excitement of making the team, to the heartbreak of falling short, left me wondering if any of them questioned if it was worth it. “It” being the years of sacrifice and dedication all for those few seconds or minutes of racing.
Katie Mackey, who finished sixth in the 5K, summed it up well:
Everyone else out there has seen themselves achieving that goal in their head a thousand times. And everybody believes it’s going to be them. You have to believe it’s going to be you, like 100% with all of your being. And when it doesn’t happen it’s like the elation from celebrating your goal is equal to the devastation of it slipping through your fingers.
This wasn’t the Academy Awards, where “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” To some degree, every athlete at the Olympic Trials had a dream that the day would be magical and somehow, some way, they’d place in the top three. They needed to have that dream to motivate them to strive day in and day out, to make the sacrifices necessary, and to focus on putting in the training it takes to compete at the highest of levels. Statistically, just by qualifying to compete in an incredibly limited field, they had a chance at placing.
But, if they didn’t make it into those magical top three spots, whether they missed their goal by a hair or by a mile, did any of these athletes pause and feel regret that maybe all the training and all the sacrifice had not been worth it?