Olympic medals are not easy to win — just ask the select athletes who have one. And unfortunately not everyone can win one. Can you imagine if your boss was able to give you a medal for turning that report in on time? Or if you got a medal for helping your son with his homework?
So in honor of National Give Something Away Day, we asked 14 Team USA athletes: If you could give an Olympic medal to someone who has helped you on your journey, who would be most deserving?
1. Andrew Weibrecht, Alpine Skiing
If I could give my medal to anyone, I think that it would have to go to my wife Denja. I don’t want to take anything away from all the people who support me (parents, brothers, sisters, etc.), but Denja is absolutely the foundation for everything that I’ve accomplished. Since we started dating over 10 years ago, she has never shown anything but support for my goals and all that I/we have had to sacrifice for my career. On top of all this she is an unbelievable mother to our daughter Adalina, and generally makes parenting and — let’s face it — dealing with me look fun and easy.
2. Bill May, Synchronized Swimming
A medal should go to U.S. national team coach Jenny Ekhilevsky and U.S. coach for the mixed duet Chris Carver. They live to inspire, and their inspiration has pushed me from the moment I met them over 20 years ago. They are the unsung heroes who have always supported us, loved us and fought for us when no one else thought there was a chance. Jenny has taken the national team that everyone thought was beaten down and made them champions, regardless where they end up.
Chris is my second mom who believed in me and my dream and never once asked what she will get in return. She is the epitome of what a coach stands for. Her joy comes from the success of her athletes and the progression of synchronized swimming. If not for her, we would not be the people we are today, or what we try to represent in and out of the water.
Jenny and Chris are the blood, sweat and tears of all of our journeys. They take the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, and push us to strive for the greatness that they know is in our hearts.
3. Will Claye, Track and Field
I would give a medal to my fiancé (and Olympic hurdler) Queen! She deserves it because she feeds me, supports me and motivates me to accomplish my goals in my career while still doing amazing in her own right!
4. Summer Britcher, Luge
Two-time Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer deserves a gold medal in the sport of Helping Other Athletes. Not only is Chris a two-time Olympian and multiple world cup medalist, but he is also an athlete rep to the International Luge Federation (FIL), USA Luge and International Olympic Committee.
When I first joined the world cup team, Chris was an invaluable source of advice both on and off the track, for sliding technique, dealing with the stress of an Olympic year, and the best strategy for a game of spades. He is willing to help anyone, anytime, and his positive attitude is contagious.He always has time to listen and help a teammate, even when he actually doesn't have the time! More than once Chris has spent the night before a world cup with an athlete talking through a problem and drafting emails — much to the displeasure of our coaches. This level of dedication and selflessness is rare and I'm lucky to be around it. As an FIL athlete rep, he is constantly working to hear everyone's voice so that he can fight for changes within our sport on behalf of the athletes. In my mind, Chris is already a gold-medal person with Olympic spirit running through his veins, but he is also an incredible athlete and I hope to see him on top of the luge podium this February. Nobody deserves it more!
5. Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
I would give a gold medal to my mom Eileen, for being so many things for me besides just my mom. She goes from being a coach, to a teacher, to a training partner, to a motivator, to a sports psychologist, to a manager, to the person who tells me the things that I need to hear but don’t want to hear, all in a single day. But above all, she is my biggest supporter. She has made the most sacrifices of anyone to help me achieve my goals in any way that she can, and who has always shown me that not only does she love me, but she believes in me, and she’s in it for the long haul. And I think sacrifice, love, belief and persistence are four of the most important qualities of someone deserving of gold.
6. Nate Holland, Snowboarding
If I could give a medal to anyone in the world I would give one to my wife Christen. She has loved and supported me throughout my career. Through the highs, the lows and 13 years of intense travel. Not that we have a 1 ½-year-old daughter, my travel schedule puts even more of a strain on our family, but you wouldn't know it because Christen just takes on the new, overwhelming challenge with such style and grace. Love you, babe!
7. Steele Johnson, Diving
I’d give the medal to Dashiell Enos, because throughout my entire junior career and leading up to college he was one of my best friends that I trained every day with. We did synchro for a long time and he really helped me grow as an athlete, especially in juniors because of how good he was. We got to battle it out in training every single day. He was so fun to be around and was so hardworking. He still is so hardworking today. So if I could give a medal to anyone, I’d absolutely give it to him.
8. Jessie Diggins, Cross-Country Skiing
If I could give away a medal to anyone else, it would be my coach and wax technician, Jason Cork. He works tirelessly behind the scenes alongside our hardworking team of techs and coaches. They are the uncelebrated, unseen heroes who make everything from training sessions to race-day skis happen. His dedication to making sure I have the opportunities to win makes all the difference and I think my coach deserves the same recognition that I've received — and that starts with a medal!
9. Keturah Orji, Track and Field
I would give a medal to my best friend Gentrix Shanga. She was my training partner in high school and introduced me to the triple jump. Before I was anywhere near the level I am today, she always supported me – no matter how poorly I performed. She also wrote a college admission essay about how my work ethic and dedication inspired her even though I am two years younger than her. I don't think I would be the athlete I am today without Gentrix.
10. Ashley Caldwell, Freestyle Skiing
Whenever you win a medal, it's never a solo effort. There are tons of people who help you get to where you are in sport. I always give my medals and trophies to my parents. They are the ones who supported my athletic career from day one and will until the day I decide to be done.
I especially need to give credit to my mother because she was the one who signed me up for my first gymnastics camp when I was 3 and my first freestyle camp back when I was 13. My father taught me to ski! My mom was the one who encouraged me to do freestyle skiing, despite the risk and danger because she knew I'd love it. I will always owe them so much credit for everything I accomplish in skiing.
11. Heather Miller-Koch, Track and Field
If I could give a medal away to anyone I would give one to my coach/training partner/husband all-in-one! Ryan and I started the journey to become an Olympian many years ago. At the time many would have laughed in our faces if we told them this lofty goal. He put in countless hours of learning the events, training theories, diet, and strength training to be better equipped to coach me. He dedicated just as much — if not more — time and effort into this goal than me, and I am the one who can forever call myself an Olympian.
He deserves more than a medal! He helped push me to raise the bar in all aspects of life, not just track and field. If it weren't for Ryan, I wouldn't be the person I am today, the athlete I am or be able to call myself an Olympian. I love you, Ryan!
12. Hagen Kearney, Snowboarding
I would give my world championships gold medal to my brother, Harry Kearney. My brother is, to me, a better snowboarder than myself and I owe a lot of my skills that I have acquired in racing snowboardcross to him. I've watched him win multiple prestigious snowboard competitions. It would be cool to just add that medal to his already heavy collection.
13. Brad Wilson, Freestyle Skiing
My brother Bryon, he has gone above and beyond to help me and with no expectations of me to pay him back. He is the reason for nearly all of my success. He inspires me to make the right decisions and inspires me to work hard and have fun. He makes the tough days easier and the great days greater. I owe him everything!
14. Kimi Goetz, Short Track Speedskating
If I could give a medal to someone, I would give it to my sister, Sam, for pushing me to try ice, for supporting me at every competition and always being there for me.
She got me to start inline skating because she joined and I pretty much copied everything that she did. She was two years older. She was 9 and I was 7. So, I joined inline solely because she did and I knew nothing about the sport. And then she moved to Salt Lake City in 2013 to live with her boyfriend Keith. I wanted to live near my sister, so I said I'd move out there and go to school, and she said, you need to try ice. So I did and she basically went with me to every practice for the first three months every day. Now I am skating for the USA NTP team.