Grit and Gold

    Some people see the Olympics as a great metaphor for life. They talk about how the dream of winning a gold medal fuels athletes during the long years of training and preparation.

    I’m hoping to earn a shot at taking first place on the podium in the 800 meters, in Tokyo this summer, but I want to let you in on a secret as I make my last preparations. I don’t always feel motivated when I am training. Sometimes, the prospect of becoming an Olympic champion isn’t enough to fire my cylinders. Some days, it’s just a grind. On those mornings, I focus on another important aspect of achieving a big goal like Olympic gold.

    I choose to be disciplined. I make sure that I am doing all the things I know I should be doing (which, of course, includes not doing those things I know I should not be doing). I may not feel pumped up all the time, but I can decide to be persistent in taking the daily steps that will get me closer to where I want to be. I can show up. That requires sacrifice. The path of least resistance goes downhill, not up. Part of staying on track (no pun intended) means being around a good group of people. Guys with similar ambitions, who can encourage you and challenge you. And distract you, on occasions: when I have done all I can for my day’s training, I try to forget about running for a while. After all, there’s nothing else I can do to advance myself until tomorrow. It’s good to give yourself a break (I love to go fishing).

    Giving back

    Finding the right coach is vital, too. I don’t know that I would be where I am today—800 meter world champion and indoor record holder—without Kevin Winnie. He was my high school coach, the first person who told me I had real potential, and who guided me in my early years. Sometimes we need someone to believe in us before we can really believe in ourselves. They can help us discover our passion. Coach Kevin and others helped me realize that running might take me places that nothing else could. Because of their example, I hope to go into coaching when my track career is over. The sport has given me so much, and I want to be able to share some of that with others—spotting someone’s potential and being part of helping them reach their limits. But first there is Tokyo. When the Games were delayed last year because of COVID-19, I was initially disappointed. But then I decided that, on the positive side, it gave me another year to prepare. I’m hoping that if and when I do get to the start, I’ll be more mature and more ready.

    A favorite to make Team USA for the 2021 Olympic Games, Donavan Brazier won the 800 meters gold medal at the 2019 World Championships and holds the American indoor 800 meter record of 1:44.21. He won the USA Track and Field Jesse Owens Award in 2019.

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