FLAGFSTAFF, Ariz. – Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden was the honored guest Sunday night for the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Players’ Dinner at Forest Highlands Golf Club, where she told the 156 participants who come from 12 countries and 33 states that “if you dream big, work hard, never give up and truly believe in yourself, anything is absolutely possible.”
Captain of the 1996 USA team that won the gymnastics team gold medal in Atlanta, Borden is a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. She currently owns a gymnastics academy with multiple locations in Arizona and is a television commentator for multiple networks.
The 37-year old Cincinnati native recalled her first junior national championship as a 13-year old, an event she described as a turning point in her career. “I decided to devote my entire life to gymnastics then,” she said. “I knew I wanted to give everything I had to the sport.”
At the 1992 Olympic Trials, Borden drew attention for sporting a constant, ear-to-ear grin, unique in a fairly intense and serious sport.
“The biggest reason for that was I just loved being out there,” said Borden.
Borden qualified for the team, but was later replaced before the Barcelona Games. Devastated by the decision, she quit the sport — for three days.
“I realized that I was never going to let something or someone take away what I loved most, and that was my passion for gymnastics,” she said. “I also realized at age 15 that I was going to do gymnastics for me, live in the moment and take it day by day.”
She eventually became a member of multiple World Championship and Pan American Games teams before passing up a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia to attempt to qualify for the 1996 Olympics.
“I told my parents I would rather try again and fail than not try at all because if I don’t, I will regret it the rest of my life,” said Borden
She overcame multiple injuries, including a broken hand just three months before the Olympic Trials, before earning the final spot and being named captain of what became the first USA women’s gymnastics team ever to earn a gold medal.
Borden said if it weren’t for all of those struggles she probably would never have earned that gold medal, and added that those lessons could also apply to golf.
“There are definitely going to be highs and lows for all of you,” said Borden. “But the downs are what truly make us strong enough to handle success. The biggest thing I learned in my gymnastics career is that it’s your journey and your dream, so don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t forget to be passionate about what you do. You get to competitions like this [U.S. Girls’ Junior] Championship and it’s all about winning some times or hitting a perfect shot. But underneath it all, you do this because you love golf. And don’t ever lose that.”
A number of golfers were also recognized at the dinner for their multiple appearances in the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Making her sixth appearance is 2013 semifinalist Megan Khang, ofRockland, Mass., who qualified for last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, while Allisen Corpuz, of Honolulu, is playing for the fifth time.
Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.