Overcoming obstacles to achieve success is the most valuable aspect of competition, according to Olympians Charlie Buckingham (COL ’11) and Michelle Konkoly (COL ’15) in a talk in Copley Formal Lounge on Feb. 16.
Konkoly won four medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, including two golds in the 50 meters and 100m freestyle, while Buckingham placed 11th in the Laser sailing division at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The pair constitutes two of 47 Georgetown alumni who have competed in the Olympics.
Buckingham said that while success is temporary, the lessons learned in the experience leading up to Olympics are permanent.
“You experience that result for one second,” Buckingham said. “And when that’s gone, you feel pretty empty, so if the journey leading up to that has been all about the result, I think you’ve missed something.”
Konkoly was originally recruited to be part of Georgetown’s swimming team. But at the beginning of her freshman spring semester, she fell out of her dorm window on the fifth floor of Village C West, abruptly halting her collegiate swimming career. Rather than giving up on swimming, Konkoly decided to try out for the Paralympics, which she said allowed her to work through her disability alongside others facing similar challenges.
“Georgetown offers so many things, but when I got to the Paralympics, I found this community of other athletes who did have physical disabilities,” Konkoly said. “So, it kind of filled that one little niche that was harder to find here.”
Instead of competing in another Paralympics, Konkoly plans on attending medical school and hopes to be able to work with children with disabilities after she graduates.
“I’d really like to do something with kids with disabilities,” Konkoly said. “Meeting my Paralympic teammates has really shown me that they are some of the most incredible people in the world, and I’d love to continue working with that patient population.”
Konkoly said although she will not be continuing to train and compete full-time, her time at Rio — like her time at Georgetown — is an experience that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
“You’re an Olympian for life, just like you’re a Hoya for life, and being able to translate those lessons to your next step allows this to be such a more lasting experience,” Konkoly said.
Buckingham said his time on Georgetown’s sailing team provided him with the skills and inspiration to qualify for the Olympics.
“I always looked up to Olympic sailors, but it became a reality at Georgetown for sure,” Buckingham said. “When I came here and I learned what it took to become a better athlete, that’s when I feel I moved to the next level.”
Buckingham said that he is getting ready for the 2020 games in Tokyo.
“I’m already training for Tokyo,” Buckingham said. “When you are in the environment and you see what’s possible, I am driven to get that gold medal. I’m going to go for it until I get it.”