Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/GettyImages; Scott Heavey/Getty Images; Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Merrill Moses: A 20-Year Journey to London
In 2004, Merrill Moses gave up water polo for a much more lucrative career in the mortgage industry. Then came the call from the assistant coach for the U.S. national team who told Moses he thought he was the “missing piece.” “I put my suit back in the closet, grabbed the speedo out and was ready to go,” the goalkeeper for Team USA told me during an interview at the P&G Family Home. “Gave up my career no problem, because this is my true passion, representing your country and bringing home a gold medal for your country, no money is going to give you that.”
Moses and his teammates surprised a lot of people winning silver in Beijing in 2008, but this year, the dad-to-be (he and his wife Laura are expecting their first child, a girl, in October) has only one color on his mind. “I plan on bringing home a gold,” he added, saying standing on top of the medals platform would be a perfect birthday present. He turns 35 on August 13, the day after the closing ceremonies.
His mom and dad, he said, made his Olympic dreams possible by supporting him and helping him out financially since athletes don’t make much money from water polo. “It’s almost a 20-year process because he was 15 when he first started,” said his proud mom, Marlene Moses. “He’ll be 35 … so for 20 years, we’ve been on this incredible journey. I love the journey, no matter how it ends.”
Moses’ dad, Max, said he would do it all over again, saying the team sport of water polo helped raise his son to be a leader. “Many times kids don’t listen to their parents that much, but they listen to the coaches,” said Max Moses. “It’s not the medal at the end, it’s the process, it’s how I’ve watched him grow. It’s phenomenal.”
Maya Moore: Hoping People “Fall in Love” with Team USA
Maya Moore, who led the University of Connecticut basketball team to two national championships and was the first overall draft pick in the WNBA in 2011, sees her first Olympic experience as being about more than pursuing a gold medal.
"Hopefully this USA team ... will be able to get people excited about (basketball) again and expose some people who maybe haven’t seen us play before to fall in love with us when they watch us play or even come to a game. So it’s a really exciting time," she said.
Moore, who spoke with me following a P&G/Tide barbecue celebrating athletes and their families, grew up watching players like Cynthia Cooper and Lisa Leslie, which made her realize that college and professional basketball could be a possibility for her. She hopes she and her U.S. teammates can inspire young girls like Cooper and Leslie inspired her. Her message? “It's okay to be athletic and to be a female and to be beautiful and to be smart and all those great things that are going to prepare you for your future,” she said. “And whether you end up being a pro-athlete or being a business woman or being a teacher or a stay at home mom, I mean all of those things we learn from sports can benefit [you in] any capacity so I’m a huge advocate of just continuing to grow and to provide sports opportunities for girls.”
Moore's team could make history in London, as what may be the first team to win five consecutive Olympic gold medals. It's also the 20th anniversary of the “Dream Team.” In 1992, NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson dominated play but also reached out to the fans and tried to change people’s minds about the U.S. Moore says she and her teammates are trying to do the very same thing and showcase the benefits of supporting women.
“Traditionally when you see the status of women raised in a country, the whole country gets better, poverty rates go down," she said. "When the family unit is strong, your country is going to be better, so hopefully we can … inspire some people around the world who maybe thought that certain things weren’t possible."
Sarah Robles: “If That’s All I Ever Accomplished … To Make Somebody Love Themselves… That Was a Good Life”
When a friend of Sarah Robles set up an online fundraising campaign, the Olympic weightlifter who has had to resort to food banks and donations from friends to train for the Olympics, set a goal of $2,500. They raised more than $20,000.
“People are still donating,” Robles told me a day after doing her personal best, finishing seventh in weightlifting. “To give your money to a complete stranger, it’s different if you met me, and you know me but … to trust in a complete stranger and to have faith in them, it’s so flattering. It’s so nice. Lord knows I need it.”
The 23-year-old, who has been living on $400 a month from USA Weightlifting (that amount was boosted to $700 June, July and August), hopes being an Olympian will attract sponsors and help support her bid for Rio in 2016. While Sarah could not talk about any sponsors, it does appear she has two lined up following the London Games.
“I think a lot of people when they hear Olympian or Olympic athlete, … they think that you are bringing in the big bucks just because you are an Olympic athlete, that the United States Olympic Committee is giving you tons and tons of money,” she said. “I think getting my story out there will help people look [at] some [other] sports and really learn to appreciate them.”
Sarah’s story is not just a financial one. Every chance she gets, she encourages girls to realize they can do whatever they want no matter their shape or size, and more broadly, encourages girls and women to feel confident about who they are.
“If you like yourself and you’re confident with what you are doing and comfortable with who you are, the other aspects of your life are going to improve,” said Sarah. “How many times do people not ask for that raise because they are not confident with who they are, you know what, ‘I am good enough for this position and I deserve more and I’m going to go after it.’ People should have that kind of drive with all other aspects [of their lives].”
“I just enjoy seeing people happy and loving themselves and if that’s what I can do through my journey, if that’s all I ever accomplished with my life to make somebody love themselves and make them happy, that was a good life,” she said. “If that’s my legacy, I’m good, [I’m] satisfied.”
The cost of Kelly's travel to London was paid by Procter & Gamble.