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VA Researcher Draws on Co-Workers’ Strength to Win Olympic Bronze Medal
- Categorized in: October 2012
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Just trying to make the Olympic team is a rigorous process where only the “elite of the elite” are chosen; two-thirds of the athletes end up being sent home, notes Dell. And she started out at a distinct disadvantage. “I was the shortest person on the team, with vastly inferior experience,” she notes.
That’s when she first began to draw on the strength of her VA colleagues. “When I was racing and in a really rough spot, when it was time to either step up or fade, in those moments I was challenged by my family members and my co-workers,” says Dell. “I cannot tell you how much inspiration their kindness, motivation and integrity — which was most important — would give me.”
Dell says she would think about specific people at VA and “try to channel their personal attributes; I felt their power.” VA employees, she asserts, “are a special breed of people, and my success is just evidence of that.”
In the end, she says, that was what set her apart. “I was consistently toward the bottom in terms of performance, but I was able to get on the team because I had this force behind me,” she asserts.
This carried over into the Olympics, says Dell. “I had practiced this way so much that it had became part of me as an athlete,” she declares. During the Olympics themselves, she says the support of her colleagues was rivaled only by that of her family. “I had an army of co-workers. Their enthusiasm was incredible, and as an athlete you feel that,” Dell says.
Now retired as an athlete — at the ripe old age of 27— Dell seeks to bring the same dedication and commitment she had toward rowing to working with veterans — and the same ability to draw strength from others. “I watch how my colleagues interact with their patients and just try to be like them,” she says. “I try to be like the veterans, too. They’re an incredible group of people, and I try to draw a lot of strength from them, as well.”