Last week, I came as close as I will ever come to being an Olympian…and did so by holding a genuine Olympic medal in my hand.

Kayla Banwarth, the libero for the USA Women’s Volleyball team, is from our town. It’s a big deal to have an Olympic medalist in our midst, so there was a reception to congratulate her. I, along with about 1000 of my ‘friends’, showed up to acknowledge her accomplishment.

She was quite gracious, and spent several hours signing newspaper articles, volleyballs and jerseys, as well as posing for countless photos. While she kept the medal firmly around her neck, she did allow us to hold it in our hands and personally discover how incredibly heavy it is.

What stuck with me most of all from the evening were Kayla’s comments. “The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is that medals don’t define me. Medals, awards — they don’t define anyone,” she said. “We are worth so much more than a gold medal, and that’s true for everyone in this room.”

And her advice to the young girls aspiring for their own moment of fame: “Find what you are passionate about — whether that be a sport, piano, painting — and practice, practice, practice.” 

Kayla and her teammates may not have won a gold in Rio, but her words of advice are golden for all of us.

beth triplett

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