Local Olympic hopefuls overcome disappointment


by ANN SHERIDAN / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheridanWCNC


Posted on August 8, 2012 at 6:53 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 8 at 7:57 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Madison Kennedy is still working out, with the  determination you'd expect from an Olympian.    

She's doing Pilate's and weights, focusing on the most prestigious games in the world.  But Kennedy isn't at the  2012 games.  The fun-loving, admired swimmer has her sights on the 2016 games.

"I am disappointed, but I don't think it's suffocating," said Kennedy at a recent workout at Pilate's 8ht Street Studio.

The 24-year-old SwimMAC athlete is one of the best 50 freestylers in the world, but didn't qualify for the Olympic Games in London.  Kennedy missed a spot on the U.S. team by three-tenths of a second, coming in fifth at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

"If you're not done, you're not done," she says of her quest to fulfill her Olympic dream. 

Kennedy decided immediately after the Olympic Trials that she would keep trying.

Her attitude is not uncommon for athletes of her level, according to Sports Psychologist Nyaka Niilampti, of Southeast Pscyh., in Charlotte.

"Some say, 'I've gotten this close and I'm not going to walk away from it,'" said Niilampti.

A former college standout in track at Princeton, Niilampti has also worked with the NFL, offering advice to potential players.  In Charlotte, she has counseled high school athletes who are struggling with the pressure of  competing while still enjoying their sport.  The biggest mistake athletes make after not making a goal?

'I think a lot of times they're motivated by fear of failing.  (They say) If I give my all and I'm disappointed, then what happens?  Can I pick myself back up?'"

Niilampti says the most successful athletes realize each competition is different.  They are self motivated and willing to learn from the past, she says.

"I think a lot of athletes find something within themselves," she said.

And  she says the greatest athletes aren't afraid to fail, instead realizing that every Olympic athlete has failed many times before making it to the international stage.

"I'm going to go all out and risk failing.  And if I don't get the outcome that I wanted, then I'll still have learned a lot about myself," she said.

It's an attitude that's worked for Kennedy, along with advice from her own mother years ago.

"She'd be like, you have one day to dwell on it and think about how said and disappointed you are, and then get up and do it differently," she said.