Winter inspiration

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Jessica Hardy is drawing motivation for her own training by watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Confession: I’m a nervous wreck while I watch the Winter Olympics on TV. I get so stressed! I know just what it’s like to be so close to realizing your dream, and I get so upset when athletes stumble on a ski jump or fall on the last lap of a race. I feel their disappointment in such a real way.

Plus, let’s be honest, the danger factor in the Winter Olympics is just a tad higher than in most Summer Olympic sports. I’m always afraid I’m going to see someone break a bone or get a concussion.

Credit to Jessica Hardy

Jessica Hardy and her teammates painting their toenails at the Olympic Village in London in 2012.

But even with the stress and the fact that my winter sports experience boils down to a little recreational skiing, I absolutely love watching the events in Sochi. It brings me back to my time in London almost two years ago.

I know a lot has been made of the conditions over in Russia, but I’m confident the athletes are taken care of. My experience in the London Olympic Village was very similar to “welcome week” in college: lots of noise, lots of laughs and not a lot of sleep. The walls were paper-thin and the athletes next door had a habit of playing the drums at all hours of the day and night. But the excitement level is so high that your surroundings and accommodations are secondary; you’re just eager to compete.

Best of all, the Winter Olympics remind me that the Summer Olympics are not that far away. Just the thought of Rio adds a little extra fuel to the fire in my training. In January I swam in the Arena Grand Prix where I ended up posting the fastest time in the world for the 100-meter breaststroke.

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Jessica Hardy and her husband, Swiss swimmer Dominik Meichtry, had a blast meeting Matthew McConaughey at the Golden Globes.

That same Grand Prix meet allowed me to do something I’ve never done before: poll my Twitter followers and Facebook fans to ask what stroke I should swim for the 50 free. Technically, in a “free” style event, you can swim whichever stroke you prefer. I gave fans the choice of a traditional freestyle stroke or breaststroke. Can you guess which they chose? Yep, breaststroke it was. I came up only a tenth of a second off the girl who has the top freestyle time in the world so far this year. Not bad!

I’ve had some excitement out of the pool as well. I was able to attend the Gold Meets Golden gala at NBC’s official Golden Globes after-party. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event! Since I spend most of my time in sweats with soaking wet hair, it was fun to dress up for a change. I got to see some fellow athletes and plenty of famous actors. I even got to meet Jessica Chastain and Matthew McConaughey! They both impressed me, but McConaughey, in particular, was so unguarded and uninhibited. You don’t expect that from a big Hollywood star.

For now, it’s back to the pool for me. Though training can definitely seem like a drag with four years in between Olympics, I’ve learned to focus on something new every day in order to keep myself stimulated and, most importantly, feeling positive. The Winter Olympics are helping with that, too. You just can’t help but be inspired. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the action in Sochi!

Jessica Hardy's previous blog