This year will be my third trip to the Olympic Trials. Each time has been such a different and unique experience. Back in 2000 I had just finished my sophomore year in college and I went to the Olympic Trials for the experience. In my mind I had no legitimate shot at actually making the team but I knew that four years later I would and I wanted the opportunity to see what it was like and to do have a sort of dress rehearsal. The biggest thing for me that year was that I had jumped the A standard for the Olympics in the Long Jump so I was able to get my own room at the official meet hotel and that made me feel like a big deal. I was stoked. The whole experience was a bit surreal and I remember being in the finals and thinking to myself how neat it was that I was being introduced next to Marion Jones and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. It was the point in my career that solidified the idea of my own desire to become a professional in this sport. Fast-forward four years and I’m back in Sacramento with a real goal in mind. I want to make the team and I believe that I can. During the past four years I had won an NCAA title and a U.S. title in the Long Jump so I now felt like I belonged. Even if that particular season had been less than stellar I knew that the only meet that truly mattered was the Trials and if I could make it all come together on that particular day, I would be elated. Well on that particular day I fouled all 3 jumps in the final.
You could say that that was an unfortunate situation and I had extremely bad luck on that day, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I didn’t perform and I basically chocked. If I didn’t admit that then, I definitely do now. I had a lot of mental issues I was dealing with that year and they definitely affected the way I was able to approach that competition and how I rose to the occasion. (Or failed to.) You cannot be a champion until you see yourself as one and that was not what I was able to do. I was still in the mode of “hoping” to be a champion. And once I fouled my first jump I “hoped” that I wouldn’t foul the second one…and then the third. So basically I gave my brain the instruction to foul. I’ve spent the last four years trying to regroup and get myself to the proper place so that this time around, in 2008, I am not there for the experience and I am not there to hope. In a lot of ways I thought I had made the breakthrough last year but evidently there was still a few pieces of the puzzle missing.
What I truly believe is that at this level of competition, the difference in talent at the highest level is almost negligible. I’m not saying that there aren’t some who may be more naturally gifted than others, but I don’t believe that is what determines who earns a spot to the Games. I trust in my talent and I trust the training that I’m doing to make sure that physically I am ready to do what needs to be done come the end of June. But what comes with that is the mental edge that allows you to rise to the occasion and become the champion you know you are. I am working on perfecting that because that is what I know will make the difference. For me it has become something I need to practice and actually work at. I read books, I do exercises…I do all the little things off the track that will make a difference when I get on it. I know that the mental aspect of this sport isn’t a new phenomenon, but I am finally realizing the true impact it can have and how much it has hindered me in the past. I’m not going to let that happen this time around.