Dwight Pettigrew

The Olympics never fail to leave me in awe. It is both humbling and enthralling to witness what the greatest athletes in the world can accomplish when they work hard and push themselves to excel. And this time around, watching the incredible achievements at the winter games in Pyeongchang has motivated me to strive for such excellence myself.

Inspired by the Olympics, I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to jump over all kinds of stuff.

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I started with really small things, like a stack of books and the ottoman in my living room. That may not seem like much, but I have big dreams and you have to start somewhere. Besides, I’m pretty sure gold medalist Vincent Zhou didn’t land a quadruple spin thing the first time he put on skates. He started out doing easier jumps and worked up to the way harder ones, probably taking quite a few tumbles along the way. It’s a grueling process, but I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and detangle your foot from the lawn chair you just failed to clear.

Becoming a champion who can soar over a bunch of different junk takes true devotion and a willingness to sacrifice all your personal relationships. Plus, you have to stick to a strict dietary regimen—mine’s mostly beef jerky and pepperoni sticks—as well as a relentless practice schedule. I train for hours with stuff around the house and in my backyard, trying to jump higher, trying to jump forward, trying to jump backward. Sure, there are times I’d rather be hanging out with friends or watching TV, but instead I’m trying one more time to hop that picket fence.

It’s hard to believe, but barely a day goes by anymore when I’m not out there seeing if I can jump over something.

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I’ve experienced my fair share of struggles along the way. There are times I’ve tripped. There are times I’ve banged my knees up pretty bad. There was even one time when I totally ate it trying to jump over my car and wound up in an urgent-care clinic. I thought for sure my career was over, but then I had a realization: If Olympians like Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White could come back from devastating injuries to win medals in Pyeongchang, who was I to throw in the towel? It wasn’t long before I was back at it, jumping over stuff at the children’s playground near my home.

What it really comes down to is passion. One of my goals is to make it to Tokyo in 2020 so I can be there during the opening ceremonies to jump the Olympic torch, and I don’t intend to let anything stand in my way. Luckily, the rush of adrenaline I get with each leap allows me to tune out the ache in my quadriceps, the family members who try to guilt me into quitting, and the security guard who tells me I’m not allowed to jump over benches and potted plants at my local shopping center.

That man can throw me out of the mall for misjudging the height of the Boost Mobile kiosk, slamming into it, and causing smartphone accessories to fly in every direction, but he can’t take away my dreams of glory.

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I know I may fail. I may never jump up an entire staircase or vault over a school bus. And it’s possible I won’t match the feats of my heroes, pulling off back-to-back 1080s over my neighbor’s hedge the way Chloe Kim can with a snowboard and a half-pipe. But I believe that with grit, determination, and a little luck, I could someday be on your TV representing the United States in the Olympic games.

Perhaps, if that time ever comes and you see me soaring majestically, high above a cardboard box at the center of a jam-packed arena, you, too, will be inspired to achieve greatness.