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Sam Mikulak: Fighting Through The Pain

By Sam Mikulak, Olympic Gymnast | July 08, 2015, 2:32 a.m. (ET)

We left for Pan American Games on Sunday and I missed a full week of training due to an illness two weeks ago. Usually I get over it really quickly because I like to think I have a strong immune system, but not this time. The doctors thought it to be mono, which would mean I’d be out of the Pan American Games and have minimal training leading up to the U.S. championships. Last weekend I was a little worried about my preparation. I had missed a week that was crucial to build confidence, as it consisted of a lot of routines. Not only was I worried mentally, but also physically I had lost a lot of weight and didn’t know how much energy I would have to exert into my routines for this week.

I started feeling 90 percent better last Monday, leading me to believe that I didn’t have mono. However, the doctors still didn’t have results from my blood test they took on Friday. It wasn’t until Tuesday night that I found out my test showed up negative.

We had the Brazilian Pan American team training with us last week in preparation for the Games and on Wednesday we had a mock competition against them. This would be my first time doing all six events in a week and a half. To say the least, I was a little worried of how I was going to perform, especially in front of the Brazilian team. There’s nothing more demoralizing to me than looking weak in front of others.

Wednesday morning, I’m getting breakfast and get a call that I need to go get tested for mono again because the blood test wasn’t completed in time and could have shown incorrect results. This was the first day I felt 100 percent better and knew I didn’t have mono. However, for liability reasons, the doctor made me spend my morning before this stressful mock meet with a needle in my arm giving up the blood I felt I would need to get through this day.

The time finally came to start the meet and there was no looking back. I could go through all my routines and make excuses, or I could step up to the challenge and fight to the very end. I’ll let you be the judge of what approach I took.

I hit all my routines. Granted, I did slightly easier routines on pommel horse, rings and vault, but I owned them and made them look good. Not only did this reassure me that I was ready for the Pan American Games, but I proved to myself that I could still do great gymnastics even when I’m not at my best. If anything, this day gave me more confidence in myself than it would have had I not been sick. On top of that, we don’t compete till the 11th, giving me time to build more confidence. As an added bonus, I was able to do a new skill on rings (video below!) that I have been working on for five years when the mock meet was all said and done.

It still isn’t perfect, but it just goes to show that you should never give up on the difficult days because that could be the best opportunity to grow as an athlete.

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Sam Mikulak