What it Means to be a Hopeful

Here I am–I’m still alive after several days of excitement following the official Team Announcement on Friday afternoon.  It’s been a busy weekend with calls, texts, emails and messages of support from friends and family all over the world–I am so grateful to have such a broad network of support and so many communities of people behind me as I step out of the role of Olympic Hopeful and into the role of United States Olympian for the second time. THANK YOU to everyone who has reached out to me over the past several days–your words of congratulations and support have been amazing!

Selection was extremely tough this year.  It wasn’t a surprise to anyone involved that the racing was fierce, and the margins were very tight.  I am so impressed with the way that our Team handled the intensity and demand of the process this year, and have nothing but respect for the women who walked away from the boathouse on Friday having fallen a few seconds short of punching a ticket to London.  Many of the women I raced with and against over the last week are athletes that I have known and trained with for several years.  Many of them are multi-time National Team members.  World Champions and World Medalists.  They are accomplished and dedicated in every way.  But we all knew going in to the process that not all of us could make it.

On Thursday night before I went to sleep, I took a few minutes to think about my last remaining hours as an Olympic Hopeful for 2012.  Whatever happened on Friday, I would no longer be a Hopeful–I’d either be an Olympian, or I’d be an Olympic supporter.  After four years of training, learning, failing, growing, and dreaming about the Naming Date for 2012–it had arrived, and I had very little time left in the role I’ve been occupying all this time:  a Hopeful.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that for as often as I use that term, I don’t actually like it that much.  A Hopeful.  I’m hoping to make it to the Games? In fact, I’m working my ass off to make sure that Hope has nothing to do with it.  I train instead of work so that on the last seat race of the last day of the last week of the Olympic Training Cycle–I’m not hoping I’m going to win.  Or, maybe, the term reflects some of the warmer, fuzzier ideologies of the Olympic Movement and to be an Olympic Hopeful suggests a broader range of things that you’re idealistically “hopeful” of (World Peace, holding hands, singing songs, etc.).  Either way, from a practical standpoint some of the shine comes off of it if you really think about it.

Then I remembered a video project I had worked on while I was in residency at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista this winter.  It started as a Day in the Life video–I meant to use it as a showcase for the CVOTC facilities and to talk a little bit about what it’s like to train there as a resident.  I never finished the project.  Until today.

I am no longer a Hopeful for 2012.  I’m an Olympian.  In a way, it’s easy for me to talk about training for the past four years and how I just say “yes” to everything every day and it all worked out perfectly for me in the end.  I achieved my goal of making the Olympic Team in order to represent my country and have an opportunity to race for a medal in London.  But there are a lot of athletes who, in these closing weeks before the Games, will remain Hopefuls.  Or perhaps become former Hopefuls.  It’s a long, steady road that stretches on for years while you’re training–until it doesn’t.  And then it’s cutthroat.

So I want to be clear on what it means to be a Hopeful.  It is gut-twisting.  It is heart-wrenching.  It is character-revealing, blister-peeling, muscle-burning, resolve-bending work for years of your life.  It exposes the raw nerves of every emotion that you have–all the time.  It consumes your entire world.  It is everything.  But more than that–it gives you everything.  It changes you–pushes you to become a person that you may never have realized that you could be.  You have to give so much to it–but what you get… well.

I made it.  I am so, so fortunate to have had the opportunity, and to have been pushed so hard by my teammates–those who are going to London, and those who aren’t.  I can say with confidence that every US rower who will go to the line in London will be stronger and tougher for having had such fiercely competitive teammates, mentors and friends.  It may seem odd–posting now about what it means to be  a Hopeful now that I no longer am one.  But for those of us who do this–have done this, and will continue to do it–we spend so much time as Hopefuls, and so little time as anything else, it’s not odd at all.

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

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8 responses to “What it Means to be a Hopeful

  1. Megan,

    Such a great reflection on your experience. I was also among the few who, at the end of the day, got the ticket. There was some luck (e.g., not being injured when it mattered) but mostly is was a hell of a lot of work and an innate belief that it was possible that I attribute to my success. Watching the video of you walking down that familiar path at ARCO was so nostalgic. I recall the many, many days walking down to the boathouse, heading out onto Lake Otay. The last time I was there was the day we flew to Sydney. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. But more importantly, congratulations on becoming an Olympian (for the second time). I can see that you are taking the opportunity to really experience this episode in your life and I commend you for it, speaking from the other side. There is nothing in your life that you’ll be able to compare to this experience, so live it. I will be proudly cheering you and your fellow team members.

    Long live the dream, indeed. Go kick ass!

    Linda Miller
    Women’s eight, Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

  2. Kalmoe:

    What a fantastic piece. You really captured what is unknown to so many people about the process and the experience of dedicating yourself as a ‘Hopeful.’ Congrats on becoming a two time Olympian and on creating this moving piece. You made me vividly recall the emotions of the process. Thank you for devoting time to your teammates whodeere not selected to the team. As much as I hate answering the question, “did you get a medal?”, your post reminded me that I am lucky to be among those “who made it” when in truth, so many of us embark on the journey of being a ‘hopeful’ will never get the recognition they deserve.

    …unless of course they view this piece. :)

    I will be cheering for you and the rest of the team in London. Go USA!

  3. Megan,

    As one of the lucky few in the world holding the name Kalmoe, I want to say that I’m extremely proud to be sharing the name with someone of your caliber. My family and I are all watching your achievements. Good luck in London! :)

    — Russell Kalmoe

  4. A poignant reflection that causes pause and gratitude. It makes one’s heart burst with sadness, happiness, and pride, all in the same day…what an emotional roller coaster you all have endured….including friends and family alongside.

    Thank you.

  5. If your rowing has progressed nearly as much as your blog posts, there is no way you are not coming back from London without some hardware. Very well done.

  6. Pingback: Off to London! « Around the Lake: Adventures with Jamie and the US Rowing Team·

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