With just over three months to the Summer Olympics in London, many people are picking their favorites to win bronze, silver and gold. As I recall my own experiences leading into my second Olympic games, I’ve learned not to count out the media’s underdogs.
When I returned to competition following my spinal injury, I found sports journalists were not the only people who had written me off. I had to convince my sponsors that I was still worth my salt.
Believe me, sponsors don’t just take your word that they should bank on you with their valuable marketing dollars. And since my injury, I had yet to produce any results to demonstrate that I might be an Olympic medalist a short nine months later.
I knew I had to prove that I still had it in me to be the best, which meant I had to first believe it myself.
I had to learn to do the more difficult jumps, perfect the maneuvers and land them, in less than three-quarters of a year. I think I may have been one of the few people who actually believed that I could do all that in such a short time.
To prove how confident I was, I had to be creative with my contracts with sponsors. Before my injury, the majority of my contracts were “retainers,” where sponsorship dollars were set in advance and delivered up front. Sponsors knew my abilities and were willing to pay for the likely results.
Now, to prove my belief in my own post-injury skills, I had to accept a “victory schedule” contract, where they would pay me each time I ended with a top-three finish, the big bucks coming if I landed on the Olympic podium.
With my only source of income being my sponsor payments, and absolutely no recent podium finishes, it took a large amount of bravado for me to choose this path. I couldn’t wait to prove to sponsors that they should have banked on me with the advanced set retainer, because I had every intention of landing on the podium every week.
There are thousands of athletes preparing to demonstrate their magic at the London Olympic Games this summer and they certainly can’t all be favorites. I believe that the ones that will thrive are the ones who haven’t counted themselves out.