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16 Motivational Quotes From Olympic Athletes

The Olympic Games are an exciting, intense, and unifying tradition. Few global events have as long a history or as diverse a group of participants and spectators. For most of us, the Olympics are a time to marvel at human athleticism, strength, and grace, and to root for our home country. But for a select few, the games are the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime.

The Olympics have been occurring in some form for thousands of years, dating back to at least  776 BCE. These competitions were originally held every four years to honor the Greek god Zeus, and featured races run by the freeborn male citizens of ancient Greece. Over time, like so many cultural phenomena, the games became more diverse and equitable, including women competitors, a wide variety of sports, and thousands of athletes from hundreds of countries. The modern Olympic symbol stands for global unity: Five colored interlocking rings represent the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America.

Olympians train for years and even decades to compete in these premiere tournaments, which now occur in rotating Winter and Summer Games every two years. The saying “Go for the gold” has come to represent striving for greatness in any situation. Whether they take home a medal or not, the athletes’  determination and commitment to excellence can serve as an inspiration to us all. These 16 quotes from Olympians provide an inside peek into the unique recipe of discipline, ambition, self-belief, and passion that make them the best in the world.


Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination.
— Michael Phelps, U.S. swimming

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.
— Carl Lewis, U.S. track and field

Push yourself again and again. Don't give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.
— Larry Bird, U.S. basketball

I was built this way for a reason, so I'm going to use it.
— Simone Biles, U.S. gymnastics

I touched the wall and all my dreams, hopes, and ambitions basically coalesced into one moment.
— Duncan Armstrong, Australia swimming

I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.
— Mia Hamm, U.S. soccer

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
— Muhammad Ali, U.S. boxing

You show up at the Olympics, and you’re no longer you; you’re an American Olympian. You’re part of this greater whole, and the individual doesn’t matter.
— Shaun White, U.S. snowboarding

The only one who can tell you, “You can’t win,” is you, and you don’t have to listen.
— Jessica Ennis, Great Britain track and field

Luck has nothing to do with it because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.
— Serena Williams, U.S. tennis

One thing I’m proud to do like a girl is represent my country in the Olympics and at the highest level, at the highest platform that I can.
— Alex Morgan, U.S. soccer

Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.
— Dan Gable, U.S. wrestling

I grew up poor, but I didn't have poor dreams.
— Magic Johnson, U.S. basketball

A person’s view of you is not important. What is important is your view of yourself.
— Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica track and field

Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.
— Michael Jordan, U.S. basketball

The best motivation always comes from within.
— Michael Johnson, U.S. track and field

Photo credit: charlesdeluvio/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Julia Travers
Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher.
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