How the pursuit of greatness in sports led me to find my true self



Deja Young poses during the Olympic shoot for Team USA Tokyo 2020 on November 23, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.

What’s Your Why presented by DeVry highlights the individual motivations of athletes that push them to continue on their way to achieving their Olympic and Paralympic dreams.

Greatness has been something that I have always strived for, all that I have ever pursued.

I found a quote from Muhammad Ali at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that I wrote whenever I had the chance.

“Impossible is just a word started by little men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore their power to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Nothing is impossible”.

At one point, I felt that achieving the goals I had set for myself was impossible. But the challenges I have faced over the past few years have made me want to pursue this greatness even more. Battling my sanity and countless injury battles pushed me harder than I ever imagined and allowed me to find my true motivation.

So what drives me to pursue greatness and my Paralympic dreams? It’s knowing that through all of my challenges, not only do I overcome obstacles, but I am able to share my story in the hope that it helps others.

If the platform that was offered to me can save a life, it will mean more than anything else. Knowing that I am able to do what I love and talk about the things I care about motivates me every day, even on a bad day.

When COVID-19 rocked the world, I felt like everything I was looking for was on hiatus. During that time of stillness, I was able to find what I really wanted to accomplish on and off the pitch. I was also able to find the real person I was when I was off the field.

As an athlete, I want to achieve the best possible result – to become a Paralympic champion. This past year has been tough, but it’s been the kind of tough one where I want a Paralympic title more than ever.

I feel like this win would mean more to me than any other win because of the confidence I had to regain. I say this because of the year we are coming out of. Anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety and many other emotions made me work harder than ever before.

Last year I was able to find out who I was outside of sport. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

My goal off the pitch is to be more than just an athlete. With everything that has happened over the past year with the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s important that I am seen as more than just an athlete. I don’t want to feel like I’m limited on the things I can talk about.

My goal is to be able to talk about important things that are happening in the world and to keep my voice within the mental health community. I am grateful that I had a voice and a forum to talk about mental health. I also want to be able to give voice to others.

Education has always played a very important role in my life. I love school and I love to learn. But I always knew I couldn’t do track and field forever.

Being able to continue my education has helped me achieve what I want to do when I finish competing. Of course, I want to continue to help people and have a voice in the world of sport.

I currently have my degree in social work, but at the beginning of this year I started an MBA program with a concentration in business. It was a very big step for me because for a very long time I did not think about life after athletics. As an athlete, education has taught me that anything worth learning is worth working on.

When you’re young, it’s easy to think of becoming a professional athlete. As we mature we realize that it is not easy and that there is a lot of hard work and long days behind closed doors.

Education is the same way. It is a slow but steady process. You spend countless hours with your head down, patiently learning and improving. You look up and suddenly you’ve achieved your goal and learned a lot in the process.

So whether I’m in the starting block on the track or in the classroom, I’ll look to the future and apply all the hard work I’ve put in to master my craft. I appreciate the patience and dedication that brought me here.



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