I am often asked what impact the Olympic movement has had on my life. In all fairness, I was never a spectacular athlete. I was the last kid picked for the 7th grade P.E. basketball team. In high school, I dove off a diving board and missed the water. Years after my Olympic successes, I even found a way to go over the handlebars of a stationary bicycle. But in the water, I found my element. Like a huge gray whale that would be uncoordinated on land, in the water I found peace and comfort, and for the first time, real ambition. I never raced an opponent. I was taught to measure myself against the stop watch, and I knew that if I improved enough, and often enough, success would surely follow.
The Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” (Not; “Swiftest, Highest, Strongest”.) I understand that the Olympic Games were not designed to honor the excellent, but rather to encourage the devoted.
Once I focused on my dream of making an Olympic team, I found all sorts of ways to make my life better. I got out of bed with enthusiasm. I didn’t put off my studies. I got plenty of sleep. I respected my coach, the officials and the rules of my sport. I avoided late night parties, tobacco and drugs. I am frightened whenever I think of what my life might have become, without my Olympic dream.
I often say that Olympic champions aren’t extraordinary people. We are ordinary people who have found a way to accomplish extraordinary things in the area of life that mattered most to us.
Ready, Set, Gold! gives Southern California area students the opportunity to meet and get to know Olympians and Paralympians, not as superheroes, but as ordinary people who accomplished something extraordinary. When they see how ordinary we are, they might also decide to chase their own dreams and accomplish extraordinary things on their own.
It is only fitting that those who have been to the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games should be the ones preparing the next generation for their own gold medals, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our partners and sponsors who help make this happen.
- John Naber, Ready, Set, Gold! Chairman