At the London 2012 Olympic Games, I was favored to win gold in men’s BMX. If I won, it would be the first-ever Olympic BMX gold medal for the United States. I was primed to make history.
No pressure or anything.
But after winning the first two heats, something went wrong in the final – I got a slow start, crashed early on and ended up in seventh. My dream of becoming an Olympic champion would have to wait for at least another four years.
I was at least happy to walk away with no more than a few bruises and scrapes. I had the opportunity to return to training healthy and continue pursuing the sport that I love.
So I headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, and got back at it. Four years of pushing myself harder than ever before. Four years of chasing that elusive gold medal.
I would never have stayed motivated during that time without the support of Team USA fans and donors – a group those of us in the Olympic Movement like to call the “Team Behind the Team.”
Knowing that thousands of Americans across the country were supporting me – not just as fans, but financially with their donations – made me want to make them proud.
After all, those supporters helped fund my training at the Chula Vista OTC. The sport science and recovery services, the amazing dining hall and the world-class BMX track I had access to were all made possible by donations from the American public. So with Rio around the corner, I was eager to make my comeback – to show them that they were right to believe in me.
Four months before the Games, though, I was met with another major hurdle. I broke my wrist during training, and it most likely wouldn’t heal before my Olympic races.
I had a choice to make – would I pass on the Olympic Games and guarantee my wrist would heal properly? Would I race in Rio, but hold back a little to make sure I wouldn’t crash again?
Or would I give it my all, knowing this may be my last chance to make history for Team USA?
The choice was easy, after all.
In Rio, I made it through the early heats successfully. And when I reached the start line of the final, I thought back to this moment four years ago. For some reason, it wasn’t meant to be in London. But they say adversity makes you stronger – and this time around, there was no way I’d let my supporters down.
Just over 30 seconds later, I became an Olympic gold medalist. The first-ever for Team USA in BMX.
I’m so glad I took the chance, because it all paid off in that moment. Standing on the podium, listening to the national anthem play and watching the American flag being raised above all the others – that’s a feeling I’ll cherish forever.
I’m so thankful for everyone who had my back through the journey – friends and family, coaches and teammates – and importantly, the Team Behind the Team.
Donor support is so crucial in helping athletes like me succeed.
So today, I’m asking all the American fans out there to do something meaningful. Consider making a year-end donation to the Team USA Fund. Your dollars will go toward supporting the next crop of athletes who will without a doubt make you proud at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.
Your gift might provide training center access to an athlete who had a tough break in Sochi – or who just missed making the U.S. Olympic or Paralympic Team in 2014.
It might provide the training, coaching and sports medicine that ultimately mean the difference between winning gold and finishing just off the podium.
When we’re training for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, every moment matters. Every push-up, every rep, every circuit of the track.
And when it comes to donations, every dollar matters. Even the smallest amount can make a difference – helping pay for something like a nutritious meal or a cab to the airport for a competition.
Take it from a gold medalist: your gift will motivate Team USA’s Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls to work longer, train harder and ultimately achieve our dreams.
Thank you for your support. It means the world!
2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, BMX