It is an enormous honor and privilege to compete on the US Olympic team. In 1996 and 2000 I had that privilege. I also rowed on the team that won the Gold for the US team in the World Championships in 1995.
Being in the Olympics is a unique moment in time, but that moment is not one of reflection. All that matters is the visceral reality of the moment. Is my oarlock tight, do I have water on my hands, am I breathing? The focus is pure and interior.
Watching these athletes perform under the immense challenges of 2021 reminds me of the words of Teddy Roosevelt in 1910: It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and at worst fails while daring greatly.
But the Olympics are about much more than performing in one moment in time. The Olympics show us that the bounds of human achievement can surpass even our imaginations. The Olympics inspire because they demand the best of us and celebrate the pursuit of excellence.
It is well worth the discipline of years of demanding daily hard work. Pushing the body to its limit, ignoring the inner voice of doubt, and confirming the power of hope and the pursuit to be one’s best, and then to be rewarded to represent one’s nation is an experience to be treasured.
In this time of turmoil, it is good to be reminded that humans are capable of great achievement. We do well to consider the power of our yearning, of our desire for excellence, even without the cheers of an audience. The Olympics is a celebration of our common humanity.
Part of its glory is that we do it together, as athletes from one human family. Days before the 2021 Olympics began, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added a word to the Olympic motto to reflect the need for solidarity in today’s world: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together.”
Daring greatly in today’s world requires us to be faster and better in so many ways and to do so at a national and global level. There is no substitute for sustainable development, and in Montana we know well how important it is to protect our natural resources.
We also know how important it is to get beyond petty divisions and take pride in Team USA. Can we not stand together now and take pride in what our nation stands for? Are we not still capable of being a shining light amongst nations?
Montana has a long tradition of strong leaders. The world needs our strength. I agree with IOC President Thomas Bach when he said, “We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger by standing together — in solidarity.” It is paradoxical that competing in the Olympics gave me an appreciation of human solidarity.
It is inspiring to push oneself to the limit and then see others from the world over share that same passion and effort. It makes one feel fully human. That is a laurel worth celebrating.
Monica Tranel grew up in eastern Montana and competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. She is an attorney and is a candidate for Montana’s open U.S. House seat.