Michelle Kasold, a striker, has been a member of the United States field hockey team since 2006, and competed in her first Olympics in London. She has written regularly for the 2012 London Olympics blog. This is her fourth post. Read all of Michelle's blogs for the NYTimes
The Olympic Games have officially ended. There is so much to say about the experience I have just had, but at the same time I am at a loss for words. Although I will never be able to explain my experience as an Olympic athlete fully, I will give you some highlights of my favorite moments over the past two weeks in London.
Before the Games, our team left the village for a couple of days for a retreat to Middle Stanley, set in the beautiful English countryside. We spent a lot of time relaxing, getting away from the crazy anticipation of the beginning of competition. It was a chance for all 16 of our players to just enjoy one another’s company in the simplest form. We shared laughs and tears, but it made us appreciate, even more, the amazing people we were around.
My favorite part of the two weeks was the opening ceremony. The memories I have from that one night will stay with me forever. The feeling of being a part of Team USA, not just USA Field Hockey, was incredible. I met athletes from every sport as we walked and wove and navigated our way to the stadium. A rush of emotion took over as we entered the stadium for the first time, behind our flag, as the world was watching. I still get chills. The rest of the ceremony seemed to fly by, until “Hey Jude” played over the loudspeakers.
The world slowed, almost to a stop. My teammates and I embraced, arm in arm, and swayed back and forth. In the moment, we had one another and shared the joy of being together, as a part of something bigger. Within minutes, we had a crowd of United States athletes joining us, a symbol of Team USA’s bond.
The Games. Although we did not reach our goal of medaling and we were disappointed in our final outcome, I really did enjoy competing. The roar of the crowd was more immense than anywhere I’ve ever played. The American flags constantly waving, win or lose. The atmosphere and the excitement for each game were greater than I could have ever imagined. The feeling of wearing the Red, White and Blue while the world was watching and giving every last ounce of energy even when falling in defeat. It’s the Olympic Games. Not everyone’s story is perfect. Not everyone can be victorious and bring home a medal. It must be earned, and it’s not supposed to be easy. That is the beauty of the competition.
Finally, the finale. It is bittersweet to be sitting back in the States describing my experience. I am an Olympian and I will always be proud to represent the United States. Although I achieved my dream of competing on the world stage, I dream of more. I am still seeking that glorious gold. I guess that’s me saying I’m not finished yet. I’m not ready to put down my hockey stick and call it quits. I’ve learned so much throughout the journey that led me to London, and London taught me so much more. Our team may have stumbled a bit, but I know there are great things still to come. I still dream.