by Jeffrey Mu ’24
With the 2022 Winter Olympics finally concluding, athletes, coaches, and even viewers are clamoring about the medals and the fame that are associated with these competitive sports. Whether that be Norway, taking home an impressive 28 medals, or the US, which earned 8 unique gold medals in different events, the talk is always centered around the prizes. But Mr. McMahon has a completely different opinion on this issue. A former Olympian himself, he tells us more about his Olympic experience and the ideals he believes to be more important than any medal in the Olympic games.
Q. Can you tell me more about your Olympic experience?
A. I was in the 1996 and 2006 Olympic games, I was the alternate in the 2006 one.
Q. What did you compete in for the 1996 Olympic games?
A. I did the hammer throw.
Q. How does that work?
A. You throw a 16 pound ball; just imagine the heaviest bowling ball at your bowling alley over 60 miles per hour, that’s like throwing it over a 4-story building the length of a football field.
Q. Did you enjoy that event?
A. I will say that the experience is unlike anything else in sports, you are essentially creating your own roller coaster, and there’s an amazing feeling that you are accelerating the ball, but at the same time that ball is accelerating you in this dynamic system. It was incredible.
Q. As an Olympian, how do you watch the Olympics in general?
A. I see it differently than most people. The general public has been told that the only thing important for the broadcasts are medals, which in itself is antithetical to the Olympic games’ goals. I believe that you need to go through triumph and struggle; to know you gave your very best effort to compete, and I think that’s what matters the most. Also, it’s more translatable towards everyday life, where people think that just because an athlete didn’t win a gold medal, you think that their 20 years of preparation of training was worth nothing. Maybe they had their best day every day, gave everything they had; and I think we should honor the effort then what happened on a single day. I also tend to see the underdogs and look at the personal stories behind an athlete. I don’t care about medals that much, I know guys who won medals who are much more interested in self-improvement, in the end you want to know you pushed yourself to the absolute limit and gave it your all.
Q. How did you feel generally about where the Olympics are these days, and how have they changed from back when you were in the Olympics?
A. The Olympics nowadays are almost hard for me to watch; the same situation at the Olympic fields except now, the place is much more isolated and difficult to have the true experiences of the Olympic. Theres this sort of transcendent feeling, of being part of a global community that was much more present in those times, and I get that now we are in the midst of a pandemic, but I hope to get back to a place where that is more possible.
Q. How did your Olympic experience translate into your career as a coach and a teacher?
A. In a number of ways, I think primarily I tried to take the transferrable skills and mindset from athletics and translate it into my academic pursuits; like making a great hammer throw, you look at great designers’ works and you practice according to them, refining and editing as you go.
Q. Are there any other things you wanted to share?
A. Yeah, I think that one thing people don’t realize now is that you only see the one athlete or maybe one singular team competing in any given event, but every one of those individuals have a huge amount of support and people behind them that made the pinnacle Olympic experience happen. When an athlete breaks a record or performs spectacularly, you can often overlook their team, their coaches, or even their family that make that experience possible. There could be hundreds of people that nudged and helped that person get there and no one does it alone, as much as it looks that way.