Current and former Kansas State Olympic athletes sat in a line of chairs chatting and laughing with each other before they answered questions as a panel: questions about being fearless, experiences and day-to-day challenges.
The athletes present were Erik Kynard, 2012 Olympic silver medalist and assistant track and field coach at K-State; Ed Broxterman, 1996 high jump Olympian; Akela Jones, 2016 heptathlon Olympian; and Thane Baker, Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist in varying sprint events in 1952 and 1956.
In addition to the athletes being questioned, Jill Montgomery, K-State alum and ESPN Color Commentator, was the one asking the questions. As a start to the first question, Baker explained how he handles his fear and admitted fear is what drove him to success — he just did not see it as a fear.
“I wanted to reach the level of performance that I was capable of and I worried about that, but I didn’t call it fear, I called it more of a challenge or a goal,” Baker said. “That’s what I was working toward.”
Through these questions, the athletes shared more than just personal experiences and perspectives, they shared advice as well. One piece of advice Kynard shared was the importance of learning from everyone who surrounds him, no matter what background they come from.
“I think in order to achieve greatness in any realm, you have to be able and willing to receive advice,” Kynard said.
In addition to words of giving advice, and receiving them, the athletes also defined how they view success. Jones said to her, success is within how much she can do for others and how many people she can impact.
“I want to bring the whole team up with me at the same time; I don’t want to be up at the top alone,” Jones said. “So success for me is giving everybody a chance, giving everybody the opportunity and motivation that they can be what they want to be.”
The panel room was filled with journalists, supporters, K-State alumni and current students. Grace Brennan, freshman in kinesiology and nutrition, said she came to the panel in part to learn more about Kynard since he is now a track coach at K-State and she participates in track.
“I really enjoyed it,” Brennan said. “I’ve been around athletics my entire life.”
The panelists also recalled and spoke about their athletic careers throughout their years as athletes. A few times throughout the panel Kynard teased Broxterman about how high he jumped in high school, as Kynard had jumped higher, and the teasing provided the audience with a laugh.
Although the panelists joked some, they answered Montgomery’s last question seriously by sharing how others can become fearless:
“Change your perspective,” Kynard said.
“Put no limits on yourself,” Broxterman said.
“Attack the fear straight forward,” Jones said.
“Don’t let a perceived handicap limit your dreams,” Baker said.