Sunday, September 22, 2013

Guest blog by Wendy Azevedo

Olympians Don’t Just Happen, They Are Created

A guest blog by my mom, Wendy Azevedo

I’m terrified of roller coasters and ferris wheels; I hate heights.  I’ve never been on or desired to be a part of an athletic team.  I don’t like to exercise, don’t own any lycra, and my “appreciation” of the great outdoors can be summed up in three words…………..“NOT MY THING.”

How, then, can I truly claim to share a genetic code with a member of the USA Women’s Bobsled team?  Not just any member.  Emily is an Olympian.  She was one of six women that competed in the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, and has been a rank and file member of the USA team for seven years. She scales the tops of mountains only to ride in the back end of what appears to be the gut of a canoe that should be slowly making it’s way down a quiet stream instead of traveling at anywhere from 4-6 g’s at 80-90 mph.

 Having had four daughters who have all been successful in the sporting world, it is not unusual for me to be at a sporting event, or awards ceremony and get asked the question, “So, what sports have you been involved in?”  I try to smile when I say “none,” but the confused look that I get back often makes we wonder if I should have tried to lie instead.  Is it truly possible for an Olympic athlete to come from a home where the only trophies and medals that are displayed are a result of the hard work of the children in the family?

 As an only child, my exposure to the sporting world was limited.  I never experienced the joy of cheering on a sibling at a sporting event or the angst of competing with them to be the best.  Instead, I learned that to truly be the best that I could be, I needed to compete with myself.  And so I did; on a daily basis.

So what do I bring to the table when it comes to creating an Olympian?  I may not have the athletic background, the “sports gene,” or the body structure to contribute to the mix, but to go to the Olympics you must have confidence, believe in yourself, have learned discipline and an understanding that with a strong work ethic and determination you can be anything you want to be.  Combine that with passion and the understanding that if you go to bed at night feeling like you have given your all, you are number one no matter what the scoreboard says.  I gave her that, and she wears it well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Never Ever Give Up!

I don’t know Diana Nyad nor had I followed her extreme dream before this her fifth and final attempt of swimming the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida.  I found myself glued to the television cheering the 64 year old on and tearing up as she limped her way up the Florida shore.   Swimming this far in open water is something that I would never have the desire to do, but it was something she dreamed of accomplishing for a solid chunk of her life.  She was determined to never ever give up on this dream.  The mind is a very powerful tool.   It is incredible what can be accomplished when you convince your mind the impossible is possible.  Diana had the courage and will to try and do something that many would say is super human.  There was not another athlete entered in her race but she was in her own race against her own body, fighting to complete the difficult swim before her body was fully depleted and shut down.   She convinced her mind that this was a task that she would be able to perform.

I can 100 percent relate to Diana Nyad and her message of never giving up.  Even after four previous failures and many doubters she believed deep in her heart that this was something she was going to accomplish.  This is a woman who never ever stopped believing in her dream.  She achieved her extreme dream.   I too have had what I thought to be an intangible dream.  My dream is not one that has me in the ocean face to face with sharks, but it does have me sliding down an icy track up to 90mph.  I grew up in Chico, California, which is known more for the brewery Sierra Nevada than it is for bobsledders.  Although my path may have been unorthodox I had my own extreme dream of becoming an Olympian.   

Diana Nyad had a major support team behind her not just to make sure she stayed healthy, but to support her and to believe in her dream with her.  In 2006 I left California and headed to New York terrified, but brave enough to chase something some thought impossible.  Before I left my mom gave me a small picture frame with a message on it.  To this day I carry this frame with me, which simply says, “Believe in yourself” and display it at each of our stops.  She had also written a note on the back that said, “I believe in you.”  My support team is just as important as each day of training is.  Diana Nyad would never have been able to accomplish this incredible feat alone.  She had huge team behind her that believed in her maybe more than she even believed in herself.  We cannot achieve the impossible alone, but we can do it.  As Diana Nyad said, “Never, ever give up.”