I thought I failed because athletes are only judged by the medals.
I thought I failed because I measured myself by the medals.
I thought I failed because the culture says only the winner is remembered.
I missed that I was the first-ever athlete representing Kazakhstan at the Olympics in snowboarding.
I missed the fact that I pioneered a sport as a female athlete in a patriarchal culture.
I missed that my dad and I raised a whole sport from the ground up.
I missed the fact that I was changing people's perception of Kazakhstan, who only knew it from Borat before.
I missed that for an athlete, on average, it takes ten years to get to the Olympics, and I’ve done it in 8 years.
I missed all those people along the way, who’d let me train in Europe for free, who’d fit me into the training schedule without reservations, since we never knew until the last minute if we make the training camp or not, all those people who’d helped me by chance, whether letting me go onto the chair lift skipping the line so I can make the competition, or a Police officer in Austria, who’d negotiate a training hill on my behalf and hundreds more instances.
I missed that I rose from a hill of 0.5 miles and a secondhand snowboard to become an Olympian.
I missed that I was the first athlete in Kazakhstan who had her website done and was writing a blog in 2 languages.
I missed that I was the first Kazakhstani that Swiss manufacturer Kessler was doing custom boards for.
I missed that I was first all along.
I missed my self-worth in a race for a medal when the real race was right in front of me all those years.
I won my race, for which there’s no title, no medal, no certificate.
But it is my experience, my story, my journey, and I own it.