While his teammates were stressing out about family, travel plans and the biggest competition of their lives, Will Brady was taking a safari in Singapore. While they were staring at pictures of the Bird's Nest in Beijing to take the edge off and get comfortable by envisioning themselves there, Brady was enjoying the scenery of the Far East.
Brady failed to qualify for one of the United States' two Olympic spots in modern pentathlon for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, but he was able to make the most out of the missed opportunity. He turned his disappointment into a chance to take a step back and learn from his teammates' successes and mistakes.
"It was two-fold," Brady said. "Everybody's a little bit jealous. You can't say that you're not, even if you are. But it would have been really fun, and a great experience to call yourself an Olympian and all that stuff. But at the same time it was kind of nice because you didn't have any of that pressure. Everybody is stressing out because of the Games. I didn't have a care in the world."
Brady traveled to Singapore before the Games as a training partner for Olympians Sam Sacksen and Eli Bremer. When they left to compete in Beijing, Brady just stayed. He watched the Opening Ceremony on TV in his hotel room.
Brady knew all along that his main goal was to help Sacksen and Bremer further their training for 2008, and his main goal has been to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Still, Brady couldn't help but think of what might have been in Beijing.
"It would have been nice, but it wasn't the ultimate goal," Brady said.
Brady still supported his teammates and offered them words of wisdom before they headed to the Olympic Games wishing them good luck and telling them not to let "everything get to your head'' and reminding them that they had family support. Brady kept in close touch with Sacksen via e-mail during the Games and watched his teammates compete online.
"The difference between growing up and watching the Olympics, and to actually see people you know and you live with and train with, it's a little surreal," Brady said.
By having some of his peers compete, Brady had the chance to learn from their mistakes. Some of his peers were really upset when it came to feeling pressure from family members, travel complications and taxi drivers showing up 15 minutes later than they said they would.
Brady said the biggest thing he learned was not to freak out about the "little things."
According to Brady, the toughest on-the-field competition for modern pentathletes is the World Cup, but because the Olympic Games involve so many more logistics, he believes it is the toughest challenge mentally.
"If you talk to anyone in the Olympics, mentally it's so much harder," Brady said. "You just never realize the grand scale of everything and how stressful it is. That's probably why the scores are lower. Everybody's nervous."
Brady chose to work closer with a sports psychologist at the end of last summer to relieve himself of unnecessary stress.
He also learned to keep an eye on things he doesn't think about back in the United States, including his shoes. Last summer, a few of the modern pentathletes were given a new order of shoes from Nike right before the Games, and nobody thought twice about breaking them in.
"Things that you don't think about ... they make the differences," Brady said.
Brady returned to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., immediately following the Games. When he arrived, he found the place was empty, as none of his teammates came back.
"Basically, everybody went AWOL after the Olympics and took vacations," Brady said.
On the bright side, it allowed him to receive one-on-one training with his coaches for several weeks.
By traveling the Olympic road as an observer, Brady may have learned more than some of the Olympians themselves. He's already planning on posting a picture of the London venue in his residence.
"I definitely learned things not to do, just like mentality and just watching other people and what they do before the Games," Brady said "Just getting themselves so stressed out, and just thinking to (myself), 'Man, I'm not going to do that.' ''