What it Takes to be an Olympian


Allison Porter

Replica of a Gold Medal

The long anticipated 2021 Olympic Games have come and gone. The world watched in awe as athletes from every corner of the Earth fulfilled their Olympic glory. They all gathered in one city to represent their country and compete for one thing. Gold.

Winning at the Olympics is the goal for many aspiring young athletes, but is it really about standing with gold on the podium? Or is it more about the journey it takes to get there?

Following their successful Olympic careers, former American athletes revealed the journey behind the fame, the pressure, and the glory of standing on an Olympic stage.

“There is no better feeling in competition than walking into the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games with red, white, and blue plastered all over your clothing knowing that all of the sacrifice, dedication, and hard work has paid off,” says Taylor Morris, an Olympic luger from West Jordan, Utah.

Competing at such a high level is not a stroll in the park. Getting onto the team takes years of dedication. “Most sports take many years to master, and this comes with sacrifice, intense focus on the end goal, and support from those around you. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise an Olympian and I found this to be true with every Olympic athlete I’ve met,” Morris explains.

At a young age, Morris dreamed of putting his name alongside other Olympic athletes and legends. He recounts emulating his life after track star Michael Johnson following the 1996 Summer Games. “I would often ask my mom if Michael Johnson would eat the food I was about to eat, and if she said no, I wouldn’t eat it.”

Morris’s Olympic dreams didn’t stop there. After the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games, he was given the opportunity to try out for the US Development Luge team. At the tryouts, he demonstrated incredible talent and promise, even though he had little experience with the sport. After going through an elimination process, only six out of 500 athletes would make the team. Yet Morris was selected, allowing him to begin his journey to the Olympics as a luger.

To master his sport, Morris trained for eight hours a day with nothing but a small sled and helmet separating him from the track.

Then, in 2014, Morris competed at the Luge World Cup, where he had the opportunity to make the Olympic team. In his final run of the competition, he made a small mistake, causing him to miss an Olympic berth by .004 of a second. Dreams can be won and lost in a matter of seconds, or, in Morris’s case, a matter of milliseconds.

Defeated, Morris considered retirement, unsure if training for another four years was worth the sacrifice. However, his wife and family continued to support his dream. And, in 2018, Taylor Morris made the Olympic Team.

 In 2018, another athlete also made her Olympic berth, speedskater Carlijn Schoutens.

Unlike Morris, Schoutens began her Olympic journey in the Netherlands. She says, “I had no idea I would end up competing on the world stage, or even ever compete on speed skates. I just liked to go fast and get better.”

Schoutens later moved to Utah, where she had an amazing performance that allowed her to qualify for the Olympic Team. At the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, she secured a bronze medal for Team USA in a relay called Team Pursuit.

Both Olympians explained their Olympic journey as one that involved learning and failure. They demonstrated that becoming an Olympian was no easy task. It required dedication and perseverance.

To them, working toward something and having goals was more important than winning an Olympic gold medal.

“Talent only gets you so far. Those who have talent and work like they don’t are the ones who make Olympic history,” says Morris.

Similarly, Schoutens explains, “You have to be willing to get up every morning and work towards your goals.”

Claiming gold is not the end-all be-all for the Olympics. The Games are also a celebration of dedication, pride, and community. They spark a light in all who seek its glory, whether it be through the competition itself, or through the identity and inspiration it creates. That’s why the Olympics are so special, not because of a gold medal.