U.S. discus thrower Stephanie Brown-Trafton of Galt is keeping a journal about her Olympic experience. (Brown-Trafton won her event on Monday, becoming just the second American woman to capture gold in the discus and the first since 1932.) The following is her latest entry.
Well, we did it!
I came to China with two throws on my mind: one throw to make it to finals and one more to seal the deal and win a medal. My last throw of the qualification round shot me to the top of the list for the finals, and my first throw of the finals, took home the gold medal!
The last few days have been so hectic for me that I still have not had the time to process the significance of the achievement. I set a standard in my first throw in the finals of the Olympics and no one had any fight left in them to get the lead back.
Remember when I said, "If you make the finals at the Olympics, anything can happen?"
One of those "anything" scenarios included me tossing a great throw for those stadium conditions, followed by a weak response from the rest of the field. The story here is: Never underestimate the power of a big first throw … look at Aretha's (Aretha Thurmond) Olympic trials toss … season best in the first round and never looked back.
The moment my last attempt was over, I still did not believe that I had won it. I had not been watching the marks the entire competition but I could tell from the noise that the crowd made that none of the other marks had taken the lead. Even when the announcer introduced me as the gold medalist before my last throw I still had to wait until I saw the final standings to realize that I had achieved what no other U.S. female thrower in 76 years had been able to do. I shook the hands of all of the officials and competitors, then ran over to the stands to get my special American flag for the victory lap. Being a novice at this, I had to ask an official if I could take my lap now or wait till later.
This flag has special significance to me … my neighbor George flew this flag in Iraq while he was stationed there, and he asked me to fly it in China, too. I also had a small Chinese flag that I carried along with the American flag so I could grab the attention of some of the Chinese fans.
After the victory lap I had to make my way to the media platforms and talk to NBC, a Canadian TV station (they asked if I speak French … sorry, no). I talked to a Greek TV station, BBC Sports, Eurosport TV. Then on to the radio and newsprint media. Up and down stairs, platforms, mazes and tunnels and finally out to see my coaches and coordinators with USATF.
I had to report to the holding room for the medal ceremony, which was right after the event. During the interviews, I had to change into my medal stand outfit in front off all the media. Don't worry, I was still decent. Of course, I had put my lip gloss on, so I looked OK for the cameras.
The medal ceremony was amazing. I told the reporters to be prepared for a cry-fest when I heard the American national anthem playing. I knew I would get emotional at that point. I forgot the words to the anthem for a long while because there were so many things going through my mind.
I came to China on a sightseeing quest … I wanted to see the view from the top of the victory stand and my wish came true.
Next, I had to go to drug testing. I can do those in record time now because I have had so many in the last few years. Then, on to the post-event press conference with more reporters and media. Then, finally, I was able to pick up my cell phone from the athlete lockers and call my husband and my father. Now, off to catch a taxi to shuttle me to the "managing victory" program at the USA house, where all of the medalists go to celebrate with family and friends.
Finally, home to bed at 2 a.m., take a shower and pretend to sleep. Wake up at 7 a.m. for a hair appointment (need to look good for the camera) then run to the Village gate to meet a car to take me over to yet another press conference. More interviews, smile and don't talk too fast. Be personable and interesting, have a great story to tell.
Bring props to show the folks back home and tell everyone how this amazing event transpired. Back to the Village to respond to 175 e-mails - oh yeah - and eat something so I don't pass out during an interview.
Run to the gate to meet a car to take me to the "Today Show" set for more hair and makeup, meet Tiki Barber, Matt Lauer, Meredith, Al and all the gang on set. Take pictures with the cast and sign autographs for the crowd. Go live on the "Today Show," make a few people laugh, and chat about winning the first gold medal for the track team in 2008 and breaking a 76-year record for discus throwers in the U.S.
By this time I have a smoky rasp in my voice and a sore throat. Back to the Bird's Nest to watched the men's discus finals and see Gerd the Estonian win. I told you about Gerd a few days ago. I watch his 2007 world's comp video on YouTube and tried to emulate some of his technique. Finally, back to bed to pretend to sleep again.
I wake up to more TV interviews, congratulations, signatures, pictures with random Chinese people who love the fact that they can be so close and touch a gold medal. More cell phone calls, media requests, hunger pains and signs of sleep-deprivation. More e-mail interviews with reporters back home. No time to write my online journal. I'm going to ride this wave until it tosses me into the cold ocean water of reality. Once I get back to my room I find time to reflect a bit and here are my thoughts:
At this point in the game we all have the ability to throw far, but it is the ones who can keep it together mentally who finish at the top. I have had outstanding marks all season, so I knew I had the right physical preparation for a medal, but it was my mental and spiritual preparation that may have made all the difference in actually securing the gold.
I'll tell you my secret for success. Look in the book of Joshua, chapter 1, verse 9:
"Do not be terrified, do not be afraid for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
How many times have you watched someone compete with that look of fire, or sometimes fear in their eyes? Or a look of peace and determination to accomplish the goal set before them?
In that moment they have let go of the fear of failure and are focused on the job at hand. They are not thinking about what would happen if this present attempt is a failure and they do not get distracted by the attempt that may follow it. God has wired the human brain with the unique ability to plan far ahead into the future and this ability can just as easily be a curse as it is a blessing.
The secret to a great performance includes preparing far in advance for each competitive moment with physical and spiritual training, controlling a natural human tendency to wonder, "What if I fail?," thereby overcorrecting the present attempt, and most of all having faith in God's promise to work everything in life, good things and bad, into something special with his signature written all over it.
I know that my worth as a human does not depend on my performance at the Olympics, gold medal or last place. God proved to all of us that we are worth dying for when he stood in our place on the cross. An Olympic gold medal can be won, and just as easily revoked, but the price He paid for us was in the currency of blood and tears and can never be revoked.
This one is for you, Mum.