Abbey D'Agostino Runs A Mile After Tearing ACL At Olympics

Not all Olympic heroes receive a gold medal. During the semifinals of the 5000m race on Tuesday, there was a bit of a collision with the runners, and Team USA's Abbey D'Agostino and New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin found themselves down on the track. 

D'Agostino reached for Hamblin's shoulder and helped her competitor up saying, "Get up, get up! We have to finish! This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this."

There were still 5 laps left in the race, which equates to a little over a mile. Despite the tumble, the duo finished the race, but it was obvious D'Agostino was in pain. Once the two crossed the finish line, they embraced in a huge hug, before D'Agostino was whisked away in a wheelchair to receive medical attention. 

It was later determined that D'Agostino tore her ACL and strained her MCL from the fall, which means she ran for over a mile on a torn ACL! Instead of jumping up, or quitting, she grabbed her fallen competitor and together they finished the race. 

Hamblin says it's a moment that she will never forget, “Regardless of the race and the result on the board, that’s a moment that you’re never, ever going to forget.” 

The New Zealand Olympian continued, “The rest of your life, it’s going to be that girl shaking my shoulder like ‘Come on, get up.’ And I really hope she’s okay. And I know that she’s young and she’s going to have so many more opportunities. And being such a good human being, she’s going to get far.”

D'Agostino recently released a statement on the now "viral" moment from the Olympics saying, "Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way."

"This whole time here, he's made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance — and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it."

Despite the tripping fiasco, the runners were given a spot in the finals. However, D'Agostino's 2016 Rio Olympics journey is complete due to her injury. Hamblin will compete in the final race.

Abbey D'Agostino is an Olympic hero, proving that not all athletes have to take home a medal to inspire millions! 

5 Things To Know About 16 Year Old Olympian Sydney McLaughlin

   Sydney McLaughlin is the youngest Olympian to not only make the track team but also qualify in decades. The last time this happened was in 1976, when Rhonda Brady, at age 16, qualified for the Montreal Olympics. McLaughlin recently won the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year award, which honors high school athletes for their athletic achievement, academic excellence and exemplary character. We caught up with McLaughlin just before she left for Rio. Here are 5 things to know before you see McLaughlin hit the track:

1. It All Started With A Chocolate Bar: When we took it back to the basics, and talked about why Sydney loves track, and why it's her dream, she responded, "it started at a young age, it started because a chocolate bar. My dad said if I ran the race I would get a chocolate bar. I did, I won, and I got the chocolate bar!"

"I like the feeling of having something to look forward to. Something as small as a chocolate bar has now grown to the Olympics. Six year old dream, I'm now sixteen, and I'll reach that goal."

2. Breaking Records: At her age, there has not been an American that has run as fast as McLaughlin does in the 400-meter-hurdles. She ran a 54.15, which set a world junior record at the Olympic trials. 

3. Mono Halted Her Season: "In December, track season started out, everything was good. I wake up one morning my neck hurts, it's a big lump. A few days go by, and it's two weeks into the track season, and I have mono, and if you know you can't run, because you can rupture your spleen. I'm out a month and a half, watching my teammates run, and here I am it's Olympic year, and I'm not doing anything. That was not a great start to my season. I knew as time went on things would get better, but then they didn't."

The Olympian continued, "My mom had a heart attack, as they say, every Olympian has two or three major struggles before they make it, and I was like, 'well I'm having struggles, but I don't know if I'm going to make it,' and somehow I did!" 

4. Running Is Her Relief: McLaughlin has gone through her series of struggles, but she finds refuge in track. The hurdler told If You Can Dream It Do It, "It's been a long year with a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and I think just realizing that those things, those are hard, but everything does get better. I think just trying to stay positive, when I do get in situations like that, I run track. I get off social media, I get off my phone, and I go run." She continued to say, when she runs no one can take that from her, it's just her and the track. 

5. Her Lucky Blanket Has Made It's Way To Rio: As far as special items in tow, it's rather simple, a lucky blanket that's proved to be a lucky companion. McLaughlin tells If You Can Dream It Do It, "I got it last year, and I went to Worlds with it, and I won, and ever since it's been by my side!" 

McLaughlin celebrated her 17th birthday on August 7, but still has the potential to be the youngest Olympian hurdler ever to medal! You can catch her on NBC tonight at 7:30pm. 

It's Okay To Not Be Okay

Lately, I've been receiving a lot of emails, messages to the If You Can Dream It Do It Facebook page, and having coffees with various friends and strangers, who all unknowingly have a common thread, they feel lost. "I thought by this time in my life I'd be further." "I thought by doing this, I would get there," and the variations continue, but the symptom is the same, people are coming up short of their expectations for their life. "I thought my life would be a certain way and it's not", or "this is hard, very, very hard, because it's not what I expected."

I don't know why, but it's on my heart tonight to share that it is okay to not be okay

I think maybe for the first time, I'm learning, it's okay to let people in, to let them know you too are figuring things out. For a long time, my career has evolved in lots of shiny red carpets, star studded interviews, and I had to hustle like hell to get those interviews. But, when I meet with girls who want to be in journalism or who want to go further in their career, it seems like it's a similar theme, that's so awesome you had that, but "........" and the confusion rears it ugly head into them believing they can't. And I can relate, when things don't work out how you thought, you wonder if the problem is you, and can end up believing it is, which in turn restricts you from opportunities, because you're stuck thinking you're not good enough.

I don't know why, but lately I've been running into, or responding back to probably at least 50 correspondences in this regard just this past month. I don't have it figured out, in fact, if I'm being eerily honest, at the point right now where I am, I wonder if this is even right. Did I make a mistake? Should I have taken this crazy leap of faith to a town where I know no one, to pursue something I wasn't even half certain what that would be? Was that stupid to leave years of work in LA, to dive into murky, murky waters in a much smaller market? It's easy to get lost in a tunnel of thoughts wondering if this diversion to Nashville is even going to move forward, or will this be chalked up to a mistake, when I look back at my life?

I know it won't be. I know there is purpose in this season, and I know I've already learned a lot during this time, but right now, it's easy to fall victim to that inner critic, and I'm learning I'm not alone in the slightest. I don't know if it's because as a generation we are surrounded by other's success, and everyone is achieving various different pillars of success in their own story. I don't know if it's because we've stopped being honest with another, because we don't want to reek of feeling like we've failed, like we're inadequate, or won't be successful. But, what I do know is that in this season, I'm learning to be more courageous in being honest. In doing that, I've found that there is an overwhelming amount of people who feel the exact same way. Lost. Lost in their personal life, lost in their career, lost in their city, lonely...and I want you to know it is okay. It is okay to not be okay, because that is what it means to be human, to be imperfect. We're not bullet proof, so let's stop acting like it, so we can lend each other some grace in these seasons, and in these times. 

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.” -Brene Brown

JJ Watt Follows In Father's Footsteps And Becomes A Firefighter

   Earlier in the year, I interviewed Houston Texans' player JJ Watt, and when I asked him who his hero was, he didn't skip a beat."My dad was a firefighter. My mom worked her way up from secretary of her company to being the vice president. I really respected their work ethics, and respected how they went about their daily business. My parents would definitely be my childhood heroes." It was his heroes, his parents, who instilled the work ethic that we consistently see outperforming others in games. 

Watt received the unique experience to walk in his hero's shoes, thanks to Gatorade's Beat the Heat Educational Fund. The NFL star headed back to his hometown of Pewaukee, WI to become a firefighter for the day. 

Watt's dad, John, smiled proudly as he watched his son take on some basic training in the firefighter gear. He smirked knowing full and well how tough the process can be, "he's acting tough now, let's just see what happens."

The process proved to be tough, and as JJ put it, "put me under the table," with the heavy gear, quick paced drills, and heat. 

The 27-year-old summed up how powerful the experience was, "We get headlines, and we're playing a game. These guys don't get the headlines, but they're the ones that save lives. Between them, and the police, and the military - I mean - those are people that are doing stuff that matters because they are true heroes..."

JJ and John Watt
Watch the full clip below:

Just like dreams, heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and professions. Thank you to the heroes out there keeping us safe.

The Three Letter Word That's Changing The Game For April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings

I recently sat down with Olympian April Ross, just before her departure for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Ross will be competing with teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball beginning August 6. This will be the first Olympics for the duo to compete together. At the last Olympics, in 2012, Kerri Walsh Jennings and former teammate Mitsy May-Treanor clinched the gold medal, while April Ross and Jennifer Kessy snagged the silver medal. This Olympics, is not only significant because it will be the duo's first Olympic appearance together, but it is also placing Walsh Jennings in a position to be the second American woman to win team gold in four consecutive Olympics. 

So, how are Ross and Walsh Jennings focusing on bringing home gold in an environment riddled with pressure and expectation? It's a three letter word, joy. 

While attending the 2016 Gatorade Player of The Year Awards, ESPN Host Sage Steele referenced how Kerri Walsh Jennings writes joy on her hands during matches, when introducing April Ross. 

Ross soon explained to me, the importance of that three letter word, and how it's carrying them through training and competing.

"It’s been a real goal of ours to enjoy the journey, and you can get so caught up in the pressure, the expectations, and all of that and what you’re trying to do, that you lose all the joy, and it just becomes a total job." 

The Olympian continued, "We have to remind ourselves we’re playing a game, we’re playing beach volleyball, we get to travel the world! I mean this is our life when it comes down to it, it’s not like after we do this, then we can have fun, we can enjoy ourselves. It’s about finding joy in the journey, and that translates to the court, we found the more positive we are on the court, the more fun we have, the better we do."

In addition to all the training, nutrition, as well as recovery, it's joy that's leading the mindset. "So, to go after that joy, and to always have that in our minds has been huge for us."

This road hasn't been an easy one for the duo on their pursuit to Rio, one specific challenge they've been overcoming is Walsh Jennings' shoulder injury. "Kerri had to have shoulder surgery after qualifications started. We really didn’t get to start gaining points until this year almost."

The duo got creative when it came to matches, "we had to find ways to win, you know she was playing with her left hand, serving underhand which you know you don’t do unless you’re in 6th grade. So, just to find ways to win was a huge challenge, but it added to our toolkit, added to our cache of arsenal, and it’s definitely made us better. You know you hate challenges when you’re going through it, but it does always make you stronger.”

It's always the challenges that shape us into who we are today, and make us dig even deeper into our dreams. We finish our interview with some advice for dreamers, 

"You just have to follow your passion, I think there are so many things out there that are cliché about following your dreams, you know 'go to the Olympics,' but if that’s not what you’re passionate about, it’s not going to work out. So, I think you just really have to listen to your heart. I love this game that’s why I still play, if I hated it I wouldn’t play. You’re not going to be good at things you’re not super passionate about. So, follow your heart, and stay in the moment, you have your end goal, but you’ve got to forget about it, and think about what’s next, what’s my small goal that I’m trying to achieve now, so staying in the moment, and doing the best you can."

Riddled with challenges along the way, amidst injury, the pressure to perform and succeed, these teammates are choosing to recognize there is joy in this journey. Even when they found themselves recently stuck in the Houston airport, and unsure if they would be able to get to Rio in time for the Olympics. Thankfully, they were able to clear the challenge, and you can catch these two competing in just a few days. Thanks April Ross, for being so candid about the journey towards your dream with If You Can Dream It Do It!