Dotsie Bausch: I am so excited to share this win with everyone who helped me get here. There are so many people, including my husband, my family and close friends, I need to thank.
More: What was it like standing on the podium and being awarded the silver medal?
DB: It was crazy and so surreal! I was standing there just soaking in the moment. I mean, I was in shock after my performance on the track. I felt like it was a dream and someone was about to wake me up. It was a total out-of-body experience, and a huge sense of pride.
More: Unlike many athletes, who have been with their sports since they were kids, you did not begin cycling until age 26.
DB: Yeah, I found my sport late, when you think about it.
More: Were you intimidated going to the Olympics, knowing you were competing against 20-year-olds?
DB: I did not think about it. To me it is just a fun fact. You can’t say to yourself you can’t do something because of your age. You have to be limitless and say, I can do this at any age. The body is amazing and resilient, plus my desire was there, which really helps me push myself.
More: Was age an advantage in winning a medal?
DB: Yes, absolutely. Age gives you maturity and takes a huge load off your central nervous system. Age helps you manage your nerves by not allowing things to overwhelm you. An older athlete can manage so many things at once, so in my case, I do not get engulfed and lose focus on what I came to do. My batteries were completely charged and I was ready to put on a great show. I mean, I was ready for the fight because I knew both I and my teammates really wanted this.
More: Sounds like you embrace getting older?
DB: Age is just a number. I don’t think people understand what our bodies are capable of. In my book, the sky is the limit.
More: You mention being ready for a show. Did being a big-time model help ease the pressure of having so many eyes on you at once?
DB: Yes, I did model for awhile. At the Olympics, I was working so hard on the mental side and focusing on the “now you get to enjoy it—it is all done, it is all in there, and now is your moment to shine and show off all of your hard work.”
More: No stress?
DB: There is no reason to be stressed. I checked off every box and did everything I was supposed to do to train and prepare for that moment. I spent three years practicing and now I just had to go out there and do it. I was ready to go out there and produce.
More: You took up the sport to heal from a period of cocaine use and eating disorders during your time as a runway model in New York City.
DB: It was a healing vehicle for me. I was at the end of my healing process with my therapist and I was working to try and make things better in my life. I hadn't been allowed to exercise for awhile, but then my therapist told me to take up an activity that I had never done before. After a minute or two I thought to myself, Cycling—I have never done that before.
More: How did you kick your demons?
DB: My mom prayed for me for 12 years and I think there was a big answer to that.
More: Which was?
DB: I hit a fork in the road and I said to myself, If I continue on this path I am going to die. I mean, it hit me I wasn’t going to be around much longer. The steps I took to heal required a lot of hard work, but anything that is worth something is a lot of hard work.
More: How old were you when you started taking drugs?
DB: I was in my twenties.
More: And you also had an eating disorder?
DB: The real clutch for me was having an eating disorder. The drugs were a piece of the whole picture. I was about to stop the drugs when I was going through eating disorder therapy. If anything, the eating disorder was the real illness.
More: What was your definition of having an eating disorder?
DB: It was anorexia, bulimia, bad habits that make you sick, and also weight issues. It was an emotional and mental disorder.
More: So you lost control?
DB: You don’t have control when you are on drugs. When you have an eating disorder, you are in control of what you will and won’t put in your body.
More: What caused you to have an eating disorder?
DB: I was going through a period in my life when everything was out of control. I felt the eating disorder gave me control and really challenged me to not eat during the day. It’s like you get this sense of empowerment from not eating. When you realize you won one battle, you go on to the next, and then everything spirals out of control. This is an ugly disease, and many people have a hard time breaking free from it.
More: Did you have a hard time breaking free?
DB: At one point I did not care if I lived or died. I remember a visit with my parents where they were so broken-hearted, seeing what I was doing to myself.
More: What motivated you to get healthy?
DB: My family. They are my best support system. It took a long time for me to care about myself, but when I thought about how my parents would have to live with the fact I was not here anymore, that became my motivator to seek help.
More: How did you not fall back into your old habits of avoiding food while you were training for the Olympics and following a strict diet plan?
DB: As I was healing I built an extremely healthy relationship with food again. You have to teach yourself nothing is off-limits—that way, you learn how to control your portions and not binge. Now I want the best foods that have the nutrients that will give me what I need to perform well.
More: So winning this medal takes on a much deeper meaning?
DB: Probably. Anyone who has overcome something big would say yes.
More: Having overcome so much, what was going through your head when you learned you had won an Olympic medal?
DB: It was elation, and feeling this incredible sense of joy. It was so surreal because I had spent so much time envisioning it. I could not believe the outcome was what it was.
More: Don’t you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Way to go, Dotsie!”?
DB: That would be very dangerous. If you get to that space with your ego, that to me would signal I am no longer the friend I want to be to my universe.