BY KALA IBARRA, USA WRESTLING | FEB. 16, 2017
The 2016 Olympic Games have come and gone. Many lifelong dreams were realized by those who competed in Rio, including U.S. Greco-Roman 130 kg Olympian Robby Smith.
From an early age, Smith dreamed of competing in the Olympics and had even bigger dreams of winning gold. He was fortunate enough to have one of those dreams come true this past summer, when he stepped on the mats in Rio, but the gold-medal dream still remains ahead.
With his victory in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa, Smith punched his ticket to the Olympics. He spent the early summer months in preparation for the biggest competition of his life. Many of fellow athletes and teammates shared with Smith what their past Olympic experience had been like in an attempt to prepare him for the trip ahead, but no amount of description could ever measure up to the real thing.
“There’s things you can’t learn. You know how to compete, you know how to train, you know how to do that but there’s a lot of things that you don’t expect. People kind of tell you, but they don’t express how crazy it is and you don’t know until you actually go through it,” he said.
As Smith moves forward in his wrestling career he will remember the journey, the experience, and the new outlook he was given while he was competing in the Games. Although he did not win a medal there, he has learned a lot that he can use to improve himself moving forward.
“You really just have to go with the flow. You have to forget the noise and just keep going forward. Just do what you came there to do and that’s wrestle. You’ve been through the toughest one, you can do anything,”
Along with the rest of the U.S. Olympic Team, Smith made his way back to the U.S. in late August. Following his return, he took time off from wrestling to unwind from the experience.
“The recovery process for the Olympics is like you get a hangover and you need to just decompress and become sane again,” he said.
The beginning of is “recovery process” consisted of a month spent with friends and family back in his home state of California.
After relaxing with family, he headed back to Colorado to undergo wrist surgery. Although it was a minor injury, it allowed Smith to have an extended time to bounce back from the most important competition of his career.
After taking some rest and healing up, Smith spent four months off the mat before returning to workouts just two weeks ago. That time gave him the opportunity to clear his head and prepare for the year ahead.
“I was happy to do it, and the process of being an athlete is taking care of your injuries and that was another process of getting through it but it also helps to mentally clear your head and lets your body heal up all together. Going through the whole process was nice. I’m happy to be healthy again and actually be able to function what I need to function at,” he said
As has been his approach throughout his career, Smith is filled with enthusiasm.
“It feels good, it’s exciting. It’s nice to be back and feel the energy of the room and actually having that in my life again. It’s a completely different world from the outside world, being an athlete is completely different,” he said
Entering the new four-year Olympic cycle, Smith comes in with a different point of view. In fact, he isn’t even committing to the entire Olympic cycle. Instead, he’s taking it all one year at a time.
“I’m committing a year at a time and I feel that I’ll be able to manage it better. I’m not committing anything else. It’s actually more of commitment of a day at a time. I’m not looking forward to Tokyo. I’m looking forward to Paris (in 2017) and focusing on that and living in the moment,” he said.
His new outlook includes enjoying the journey while moving forward, understanding where he is coming from, and embracing what’s in front of him.
“What we do as athletes is look for these four years and leave everything behind and you just want that four years. But then you don’t really live it, you don’t understand, you’re not a part of it. I want that, I want to live it, I want to understand it, I want to be a part of it. I want to enjoy every part of it” he said.
Smith comes off a strong four-year quadrennium, where he made all four U.S. World and Olympic Teams in a row. He placed fifth in the World Championships two times during that cycle.
With such a short amount of time to prepare for his first competition since the Olympic Games, Smith is focusing on the basics. This is helping him to get back in the groove of his life on the mat.
“I’m getting back to the wrestling mindset, back to winning. Back to focusing on one thing and one thing only and that’s getting your hand raised and throwing people on their heads and that’s what I’m gonna do and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said.
In the next month, Smith will be preparing for his upcoming tour to Denmark and Croatia, March 4-11. He’s using this tour as a stepping stone to the U.S. World Team Trials in Las Vegas, April 28. His performance in these meets are important to Smith, but he is also using it as a way to measure where he is at in his training.
Smith will continue to focus on the bigger picture for the year, making another World Team and competing in the World Championship in Paris in August.
“I have three months and this is just the process to get to the World Team Trials and once I make that team we work towards Paris. One step at a time. I’m not looking past anybody or any matches. It’s just these tournaments are preparation for [Worlds].