Gymnast Michelle Dusserre Farrell knew from a young age what she wanted. She vividly remembers being 7 years old and eating a family dinner in the living room so that she could watch Nadia Comaneci compete at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games. When she was 15 years old, Dusserre Farrell helped Team USA win the team all-around silver medal at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
Julia Nichols, on other hand, was a runner in high school, but felt that her physique might be a better fit for a different sport. When she began classes at the University of California, Berkeley, Nichols walked onto the women’s rowing team.
Nichols said that qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team was in the back of her mind throughout her rowing career, but that it was easier to focus on short-term goals. She competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I find with athletes that you get into that zone and you realize, ‘Oh gosh, there is this Olympic thing that is really cool,’ ” Dusserre Farrell said. “You either have it as a dream or set it as a goal, but then it’s that process. That for me is what I have the most memories of, the process … knowing the perseverance and fortitude to stick with it and see it through.
“That is a common trait among Olympians and Paralympians: That when the going gets tough, it’s that willingness to stick with it and see it through.”
“It doesn’t happen by accident,” Nichols added.
Dusserre Farrell and Nichols now run U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Association alumni chapters in Colorado and Northern California, respectively. Listen to their StoryCorps conversation as Dusserre Farrell and Nichols discuss their route to the Olympics and life since.