Disappointment comes in many different forms. For 29-year-old Louisville native Jay Panther, disappointment came in the form of being one point shy of making the U.S. Olympic freestyle moguls ski team. In order to qualify for the Olympics an athlete must place either first or second overall during a two-day event. Due to injury, Panther placed third overall.
“I went through some really dark days,” Panther says of the time following his disappointment. Doubts and confusion flooded his mind as he evaluated whether or not his passion for skiing was still worth pursuing.
Three concerns weigh against pursuing his passion, his dream: health, a desire for a wife and family and financial stability. “Do I want to keep doing this to my body?” Panther says.
Perhaps the most pressing challenge is his financial status. Because he spends more than eight hours a day training, Panther doesn’t have time for a conventional career and has to find sponsors in order to make ends meet. “Something financially has to change for me,” he says. Surviving on his current income is becoming increasingly difficult and could hinder his ability to continue competing at a professional level, and ultimately destroy his dream of Olympic gold.
While there may be legitimate reasons for him to retire, Panther credits his strong faith in God for continuing the fight. After getting the news that the Sochi Olympics was no longer an option, Panther took to Twitter to assure his fans that this is not the end for him.“I will praise God in this moment as I know He has a perfect plan for me. I praise Him for even having this opportunity. I now will focus on working my way up the U.S. ski team ranks and putting myself in a great position for the 2018 Olympics,” he tweeted.
However, Olympic victory may come sooner than 2018. Panther also is a professional volleyball player and is training for the 2016 summer Games, where he hopes to compete on the men’s doubles volleyball team. “Volleyball is great because it’s the opposite season, but it’s still good training for skiing,” he says.
In the meantime, Panther is throwing every ounce of passion, enthusiasm and talent into his preparation. He’s already come so far and refuses to give up now.
If you are interested in supporting Panther and his quest for gold, go to www.rallyme.com and search “Jay Panther.”