God at the Olympics
I just got nervous, and when I get nervous I want to be around my parents. The entire situation was filled with pressure, because you feel this extraordinary pride to represent your country, something you have never felt before. I had been to three World Championships, and I had competed all around the world representing the United States. But when you are on the Olympic team, it feels like the entire country is counting on you.
I remember walking to the Georgia Dome, and when we were still outside, the minute people saw the red, white and blue, they started chanting USA, USA! I thought to myself, "Why do they think we can do this?" The sense of pressure was overwhelming. And even in the minute we stepped inside the arena for practice, we weren't even competing and yet the entire place was going crazy.
So there was a lot of pressure. I was 19, and that's considered old in the sport, but it's not that old when you consider how much pressure it was. I think you get into this mode. I have this really special connection with my coach. We could just make eye contact, and it got me back into my zone of just doing what I do and trusting God. It didn't matter if she was standing next to me or fifty feet away. It got my into my zone of doing what you do, have fun, and trust God with the rest.
When you won the gold medal in Atlanta and realized your lifelong dream, did that resonate for you on a spiritual level?
I describe it as seeing my whole life up until then, the whole journey that had brought me there, running in slow motion. When people watch the Olympics, and even when I watch the Olympics now, it's easy to think about that moment, standing on the podium and receiving the gold medal. None of that is a big part of my memory of those Olympics. For me, it was all about the journey.
You know, I have the opportunity to go around the country still and talk to kids about my experiences. The big thing I always tell them is that I had faith in God's plan. For that reason, it made the journey so incredible.
In those moments when I had an injury, or missed the 1992 Olympics, or I missed World Championships, I didn't really appreciate what God was doing for me in the moment. You don't always appreciate the challenges. Now, at 32 years old, for the last 10 years, I realize that all of those moments not only helped me to make the Olympics and appreciate it more, but, even more importantly, they prepared me for life. They prepared me for all the challenges that you encounter when you grow up and get older. I really believe that God puts things in front of you for a reason, even if you don't always appreciate it in the moment. When I was a kid, I definitely did not understand it. Now I appreciate it much more.