During my motivational talks, I often stress the importance of self-actualization, maximizing who we are not for external gain but for internal satisfaction. Over my 17-year swimming career I certainly tried to win medals and would not have turned down a Speedo sponsorship deal. But I felt that achieving personal best times and improving myself should be reward enough.
However, looking at the cavernous empty stadiums in Tokyo, I can certainly commiserate with the Olympians and Paralympians who compete almost alone. How energizing it is to perform in front of passionate cheering crowds instead of silent Sony cameras. Never in my career did I swim as fast in training as I did in front of an audience. So come to think of it, forget my California, Zen, granola self-actualizing approach. Bring back the crowds and cheers and lets make some noise for all those athletes to hear!