“It really hasn’t changed much,” said Olympian Sarah Groff when walking back into the hallways of the Cooperstown Middle/High School.
Groff was back at her alma mater Friday to speak to fifth- through 12th-graders. The triathlete just missed the podium at the London Games, and was now back in her childhood neighborhood trying to get one message across to students: “Yes, even small-town kids can achieve whatever they set their minds to.”
Groff said it does not take a child prodigy to be really good at something. It takes a lot of hard work, patience and determination no matter what goal one is trying to achieve, she said.
“It is a real pleasure to be in front of you guys today,” Groff said. “I would have loved to have had someone come here and talk to me and say ‘hey, you know you don’t think you can go from being an average kid in Cooperstown to going to the Olympics, well, yes you can.’”
Becoming an Olympian was not a childhood dream for Groff, she admits. She said it was something she started reaching for along the way. It was never about dreaming about the Olympic rings as a child, she continued.
“What I want you to realize is, if you set your sights on something, and you may have to sacrifice a little bit along the way, I definitely did, you can achieve your dreams.”
Her dream, she said, was to just get to the Olympics. “I was able to achieve that and more,” she said.
It is not the destination but the journey, according to Groff, who finished fourth in London — just 12 seconds away from the gold medal. She said her journey really began in Cooperstown where she participated in different things, but was never “outstanding” at any one particular thing. She did break a record for swimming the length of Otsego Lake at the age of 13, however.