Pushing through adversity and not giving up on your goals are keys to success, said Brittany Salmon, Batavia native and one of the top-ranked speed skaters in the nation, while speaking this afternoon to students in the Girls on the Run program at Batavia Middle School.
Salmon always dreamed of being an Olympian, starting as an 8-year-old hockey player with the Batavia Ramparts. And though she went on to play Division I hockey at Princeton, she found she wasn't quite good enough make the Olympic hockey team. More as a chance to compete and have fun, she took up speed skating after college and a coach encouraged her to take a shot at making the U.S. Hockey Team.
She moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and started training with the team, but then she suffered a series of injuries. She had two knee surgeries, a broken back and various tears and sprains of muscles and tendons. That kept her from physical training for two years.
She admitted to feeling discouraged, even depressed, and she thought about giving up speed skating.
"It's hard to keep motivated and keep pushing through when you can't do something that you love," she said.
Then she had a realization. If she couldn't prepare to compete physically, she could still prepare to compete mentally. She started reading books on competition and training, and mental preparation, and nutrition ,and started visualizing exercises.
"So, all the sudden, even though I'm injured, I'm still working towards my goal," Salmon said. "Even when roadblocks come up, there are ways to work around them. Even though you're injured now, maybe you can do sit ups. There's always a way around a roadblock."
By the time she returned to competition, she jumped from a top 16 skater, she said, to maybe a top six.
"After all that hard work of reading and visualizing, I got back on the ice," Salmon said. "I made Olympic trials. I didn't make the Olympic team. I'm bummed about that, but I made our World Cup Team and I earned my USA suit and I got to skate with all the Olympians and I got to race against all of the Olympians. I got my butt kicked, because they're so good. That was my first international race, but it was super cool and I'm so happy that pushed I through it and kept working toward my goals and didn't give up at all."