Finish Line Between Victory And Defeat Is A Thin One For Colorado Olympians

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Photo: The Finish Line Between Victory And Defeat A Thin One For Colorado Olympians
Cyclist Mara Abbott (in background) is overtaken at the finish of the women's Olympic road race.

For cyclist Mara Abbott of Boulder, 10 years of hard work came down to a matter of seconds. After breaking away to lead the almost four-hour women's road race at the Rio Olympics, Abbott was passed near the finish line by a trio of riders, sending her to a fourth place finish.

Similarly, after three world championships and going undefeated over the last two years, Adeline Gray of Denver felt poised to perhaps become the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport. It didn't happen; Gray lost in the quarterfinals to Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus.

Photo: The Finish Line Between Victory And Defeat A Thin One For Colorado Olympians
Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray, in red, in her losing match against Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus.

Both women spoke to Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about their Olympic experiences.

Interview highlights:

Abbot on her loss:

"It wasn't my most cheerful day. It's just hard to watch. You know, it's something you work through but it's tough to go back to that reality of it. ..."

"The sports gods wanted to teach me a lesson. ... When I got to 300 meters to go, it was literally the first time that I actually thought in my head that I could win -- that this could happen. And I took this little glance under my shoulder and that was the exact second that the three girls passed me. That's cycling. That teaches you the lesson of cycling: that you can't feel like you lost something that was never yours. That's part of it too. For that one second, I thought that it might happen, but I never won the Olympic gold medal. So it's hard for me to say that I lost it."

Abbot on the pressures of competing in Rio and her impending retirement:

"You're making yourself process two very large things at once. So this experience of this race of all of a sudden thinking you could be something more than you've ever been, and then all of a sudden, you're not. So going through that and processing that the magnitude of the Olympic experience, and at the same time realizing that that power, that competence, that level of being the best in the world that you have at that second when you almost won, is something you're not going to have anymore. And I think it goes back and forth. I don't know which one I'm processing anymore."

Gray on her loss to Vasilisa Marzaliuk, who she had beaten before:

"Because I had that success against her, I think just kind of overlooked the fact that I had to win that match. It's kind of a key thing in wrestling to take it one match at a time. It's unfortunate, because nine out of 10 times I win that match."

Gray on the pressure to win:

"Our world is based off of wining. And unfortunately, you don't get those high highs if you don't have the wins that come along with those. Sports are very interesting because it's not just an expectation that's placed on you to win. But there's also your whole life that rides on it. ... You're not going to stay in the limelight if you're not winning."