Going for Gold: Inside the Mind of an Auburn Olympian
For most of us, the Olympic Games mean watch parties and humming along to the theme song.
But for a few Auburn athletes, they offer the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong goal — competing against the world’s greatest athletes on the world’s largest stage. For me, watching classmates face-off in Rio led to some serious self-evaluation: why is this my greatest accomplishment?
First off, becoming an Olympian takes work and a LOT of it. For Ziv, he began swimming as a 9-year-old and has been dedicated ever since. What do I mean by dedicated? He practices roughly 10 times per week. Yes, your math is correct — that’s more than one practice a day.
However, practice is more fun with teammates, and Ziv has the support of both his Israeli team back home and the Auburn Tigers here. When Ziv was in high school, he loved Auburn’s swimming and diving team, and he was excited by the chance to learn from head coach Brett Hawke. Hawke had coached Auburn alum César Cielo, who holds the world record in Ziv’s main event, the 50 meter freestyle.
So what was the experience like? Despite the bad reputation, Ziv enjoyed the city of Rio, and he saw many beautiful locations. However, the athletes spent the vast majority of their time in the Olympic Village. Imagine walking around with Usain Bolt, Simone Biles and Michael Phelps. It’s insane.
Curious about what the athletes did in Rio? Well, unfortunately, there wasn’t a ton of time for sightseeing. However, Ziv did describe being able to squeeze naps and Mario Kart into his busy schedule. You know, the real necessities. Naturally, he spent a lot of time practicing and competing — after all, this isn’t a typical vacation.
Ever wonder what Olympians eat? Free food from the Olympic dining hall. Surprisingly, it’s not all that healthy. Before the athletes competed, they had to endure gross, high-protein foods. Afterward, however, they enjoyed pizza, muffins, cakes and other treats. And because McDonald’s sponsored the Olympics, complimentary Big Macs were a reality. I never knew they could enjoy such a luxury with such a strict lifestyle. In fact, Ziv declared the free McDonald’s a highlight of his time in Rio.
So what’s next for Ziv and Auburn's other athletes? They’re finally back to school. Somehow, they manage to survive our rigorous academic curriculum while still aiming for the Olympic Gold. Ziv'll be competing for our Tigers for the next three years and if all goes well, he’ll be back in 2020, ready to compete once again against the world's best — and ready to enjoy unlimited Mickey D’s.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Guga Gerchmann