I recall fondly receiving congratulations from the East German defending champion, Roland Matthes, when I broke his backstroke world record. I also enjoy recalling my time in the warm-down pool with my USC teammate, Bruce Furniss, shortly after we competed against each other in the 200-Meter Freestyle final. He wanted to race again!
Sport can teach us many lessons! I learned that Olympic Champions are not necessarily extraordinary people. We are ordinary people who have found a way to accomplish extraordinary things. Anyone with a dream can set goals, work hard, overcome obstacles and deliver under pressure, if they have the right attitude and support. I also found that the relationships that are built through trials (with coaches, teammates and even competitors) are the relationships that you value in the long run.
Perhaps the most significant change in the Olympic Games is the removal of the word "amateur" from the rules. This allowed athletes to financially benefit from their participation, which keeps them in the sport longer, and sadly also tends to reduce their incentive to prepare for life after sport.
Olympic champions believe in the possibility of winning a gold medal long before it is likely, but having a dream is just the first step. Following a well-established process makes reaching the dream a great deal more likely, and this process is not limited to athletics. The true value of sport is its ability to prepare us to be successful in life!
What gives me joy is being able to convey life affirming truths to open-minded listeners, and to help others reach their goals. I am most fulfilled when I can leverage my personal experiences into other people's victories.