First Part of my Story in The US

My NCAA experience at the University of South Carolina

I am doing Track and Field since I am 4 years old. I have always been an active, happy kid who had the most joy in competing (and ofc. I enjoyed the winning part too), more in about me. Despite some injuries during my time as an athlete, I never lost the vision of competing on an international level and never lost the belief in myself – until now?

The years 2018-2020 were challenging because I had too many stress reactions and stress fractures in my foot, and regular training wasn’t possible… However, I still believed in myself and wanted to see what I could really achieve, with the ultimate goal of competing in the 2024 Olympics (a goal of mine since I was 12 or 13 years old!). So I decided to move to the USA to compete in the NCAA for the University of South Carolina, to take advantage of the facilities and opportunities I didn’t have in Germany – with the motivation to reach my full potential in the 400m hurdles… Simply because the whole sports system in the US gives athletes way better options to do both, academics and high level sport…

In short: It didn’t work out that way, and it ended up being one of the most challenging times I’ve ever had. Today, I would like to give more insight into my experience in the USA and share the highs and the lows.

This reflection of my experience may seem quite negative, especially in the beginning, where I talk about my time competing, but I really hope everyone reads to the end. I will reflect on everything that happened, and so far, I can say that I have learned so much from my experiences (especially the bad ones and I have grown tremendously as a person from them). I also don’t want to point to one particular person as the reason for what happened to me – as this was all just an unfortunate confluence of many different things happening coming from different people, including me. Lastly, before I start, I would also like to highlight that I don’t regret that step, and I would do it again with the knowledge I had in 2021. Even with the knowledge I have now, I still believe that the NCAA can help athletes grow to their full potential! However, with all the knowledge I have now, I would definitely have made my decision based on other things than I did 3 years ago – by for example paying more attention to the environment and not just focusing on track… My experience – like everyone’s – is unique and based on my individual experiences, and besides not being what I had hoped for, it was a time of growth, friendships and joy as well as tears and down times. But one thing I can say for sure, I will always be grateful for each and every experience that made me who I am today, and I would not want to miss anyone from my journey. So have fun reading!

After visiting 3 universities in the fall of 2021, I committed to the University of South Carolina in February 2022. I was so excited to start a new chapter as a graduate student there. In August 2022, I moved to Columbia, South Carolina, started my Masters in Biomedical Science, and practiced with the track and field team.

I knew that the transportation system in the USA is not the same as the one I am used to in Germany (even though we complain a lot that the train and the bus are always late, it is better to be late than not to be there at all…). This made the start even more challenging, as I had to find a car to take me to the medical campus. While the first few weeks were challenging in terms of adjusting to a new environment, culture, language and becoming part of the team, I was happy with the progress I was making on the track. This positive trend I saw in practice kept me motivated, and I regularly told myself that despite the challenges of finding my place in the team and the new environment, the reason I am here (improving in Track and Field) is working right now!

I wasn’t used to an entire indoor season. With my main event being the 400m hurdles, an event that isn’t offered indoors, the indoor season is not a primary focus for me. Still, it is an excellent opportunity to improve my speed in the 400m flat, which will eventually help me get better in the 400m hurdles for the summer season. I was excited as there are a lot of great indoor facilities, and I got the chance to compete and see the results in competitions now. With a good start to the indoor season and my second-fastest 400m ever to open the indoor season with an indoor PR, I was looking forward to more. However, the stress increased due to having a meet basically every weekend, traveling to many meets by plane or long bus rides and having way less time for school work.

In the following meets, I didn’t do great all the time – but not awful either – but I started to feel a lot more pressure that I had to improve my time, and my hamstrings were tender from the new impact and racing every week while continuing high-intensity workouts. Tenderness isn’t an injury, right? So I kept running on it… As it got worse, we changed the event from 400m to 800m because the pace is generally slower in the 800m, so my hamstring could handle the pace better – but shockingly, it didn’t get better either. Still, I was pleased with the results as I ran a huge 800m PR, even though that was not the plan in my preparation. Seeing these improvements, I was excited to start the outdoor season and finally compete in my event – the 400m hurdles.

Next, I’ll give an insight into my outdoor season – and why the goal of continuing my outdoor season in Germany was not possible and had to be finished earlier than I wanted, and why I didn’t achieve my goals. If you can’t wait to read my full story, you can sign up for my newsletter and get access to my full story, as well as an audio version!

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