Earlier this month at Paralympic Trials, I finally fulfilled a dream that had been brewing inside me for the past four years: I qualified for the Paralympic Games as a member of Team USA. I became a Paralympian. Years of hard work paid off at Trials: I broke a world record twice and swam personal bests in all my events! The outpouring of kind words and congratulations from my family and friends reminded me how incredibly loved and supported I am. I felt pride in my own dedication and sacrifices that got me to this point. These performances reinforced my strongly-held conviction that the more effort you put into something, the better the results will be.
But my most important lesson from Trials revealed itself a few days after the meet ended. The media storm had calmed down. The ear-to-ear smile had faded from my face. I was back in the water, looking down at that black line, when it occurred to me: record-breaking outcomes are great, but what really matters in the long run is the process. If you aren’t enjoying the journey that leads up to pinnacle achievements, you’re wasting a lot of time!
As we get closer and closer to the Games, I’m really making an effort to enjoy every moment of this journey. The image of the podium in Rio is certainly ingrained in my mind, and it’s what gets me out of bed early in the morning for practice. But I don’t spend every minute of training thinking about the Games. I concentrate on what’s in front of me at that moment and try to do just that task to the best of my ability. If I’m constantly thinking about a race that’s going to take place months from now, I’m missing out on what’s actually happening during the present moment. I’m grateful that I enjoy all aspects of swimming, and I love what I do everyday, whether that’s grinding away in the gym, or competing in front of thousands of spectators.
Like most lessons learned from swimming, this idea transcends to life out of the pool. Take medical school, for example. The goal, of course, is to become a doctor. But why spend four years just thinking about that day when you finally become an M.D.? You’d be missing out on four years of your life! I know that journey won’t be an easy one, either, but I intend to make every effort to enjoy the process, no matter how arduous.
P.S. NBC Sports produced a fantastic documentary about 2016 Paralympic Trials. You can learn more about my story and those of my incredible teammates here.
‘Road to Rio’ is a monthly blog series written by Paralympic swimmer and former Magee patient Michelle Konkoly as she prepares for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.