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Olympic lessons for the rest of us


As the Olympic torch dims on the Summer Games, Women’s Leadership LIVE applauds the brightest stars in Rio: the women of Team USA.

The whole team – men AND women – rocked the Games, bringing home a total of 121 medals, winning the most golds (46), the most silvers (37) and the most bronzes (38) of any country.

American women won most of them – 61 total, including 27 of those gold medals. Gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky each earned five medals, including four golds apiece. During the 100-meter hurdles, American women took gold, silver and bronze, so the only flag raised during the medal ceremony was the Stars and Stripes. Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castin were the first American women to sweep any event in Olympic history.

Our new heroines gave us so much to cheer for! There probably would not be much overlap in a Venn diagram of their daily routines and ours, but Women’s Leadership LIVE believes there are a few things we can learn from these champions:

Find your passion. A photo of Ledecky as a 9-year-old asking fellow swimmer Michael Phelps for an autograph in 2006 went viral. Now 19, Ledecky was Phelps’ teammate, winning four gold medals and a silver, in her record-shattering performance. The beaming smile in that decade-old photo made it clear Ledecky knew what she loved.

Work hard, but find balance. No shortcuts here. Every great athlete showed us that greatness doesn’t come for free. While swimmers spend time in the pool and runners on the track, athletes report they balance their workouts to keep themselves in prime condition. The U.S. women’s volleyball team spends time on the court, but also does cardio, weights, spinning and yoga – and Christa Deitzen told the Wall Street Journal she even works with a sleep doctor to optimize her naps!

Find the right coaches. The US women’s gymnastics team was coached by the legendary Bela Karolyi, the Romanian who had trained Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, and Kerri Strug to gold medals over the past 40 years. The team called itself the Final Five – an acknowledgement that they were the last team that would be led by Martha Karolyi, Bela’s wife and the national team coordinator of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program, before her retirement. Biles told NBCOlympics.com, “She’s pushed us harder than anyone else, harder than our coaches. Every day in practice, even if you’re so close to perfection, she still tells you that you can be better. … She does it because she loves us. She just wants the best for us.”

Find your support. None of us do this alone. How great was it to see the athletes’ parents in the stands? They more than anyone know the efforts that go into than the families and friends of the athletes who cheer them on through the victories and the tough times. Simone Biles’ parents looked like they, too, felt every move their daughter made in beamed with pride and relief in each post-event kiss the cameras caught. Runner Allyson Felix praised her mother: “She is that pillar of strength in my life — whether I win or I lose, and even if I never run again — her love and her support won’t change. I definitely saw that this year when I was dealing with an injury; she was there for me around the clock, helping me ice and going to doctor’s appointments – whatever it was, she was that person.”

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