I know the posts have been getting a little less Olympics and a little more me, but I’ve kind of been on a journey of personal discovery out here, so yea… I’m heading into my last week here at the training center, and I swear it was just June. I swear I just got off the plane at San Diego International and walked to the wrong pick-up terminal. And I was just repeating my name for every athlete I met because interns come and go around here, but Paralympic track guys are forever. And my fellow interns and I were just driving around downtown San Diego for thirty minutes looking for parking only to give up and drive thirty minutes back to Chula Vista. I swear I was just watching Brad Walker pole vault his highest height for the year or Maya Nakanishi break the long jump T44 record during practice. And I swear I just had one of the best summers of my life.
But now I’m headed back to the East Coast, back to school, and in many ways, back to reality. The training center reminds me a lot of D.C. sometimes, in the way that it’s so transient. Countless athletes, volunteers, interns, and staff cycle through this place at break-neck speed. New venues are built each year, old ones re-purposed. For many athletes who competed in the 2012 Games and especially for those who just missed out, the question looms: Can I really do another four years? I can see their conundrum. The OTC is a like bubble with real life shimmering just beyond the edges, but everyone and everything inside remains untouched. Four more years of waking up early to train, four more years of taco Tuesdays in the dining hall, four more years of this beautiful, but season-less place. Whether to stay or go is a decision they each will have to make for themselves.
As for me, it’s back to school I go. One more year of my master’s program and then I’m pushed off the cliff into the next unknown. There are tools and memories and friends that I will take with me from this place, though. I have had more interaction with the media than I ever imagined. I have laughed with gold medalists and dined with champions every day. I’ve witnessed tragedy here at the OTC, and that is all I’m allowed to say about it. I’ve started to get into shape here with the help of the strength and conditioning intern, now a good friend. I’ve thrown discus, shot arrows, kayaked, ran the track. I’ve started to set physical goals for myself and completely changed my professional ones. I’ve been happier out here than I have been anywhere in a long time.
So now my looming question: What’s next?