When it comes to inspiration, Shae Anderson never had to look far.
Ever since she was a young girl, the track and field star was amazed at her dad Mark Anderson's athleticism. After all, the UCLA alum is a two-time all-American decathlete who holds the university record in the event.
So, when Shae decided to stop figure skating as a kid, it made sense that she switched to track and field, where her dad took on the role of coach and mentor.
"My dream was to go to the Winter Olympics, but I'm now following in my dad's footsteps," Shae exclusively shared with E! News on July 10. "Ever since I was little, I knew how great of an athlete my dad was and I wanted to be like just like him. He aspired to be in the Olympics and I wanted to do that as well."
Back on June 20, Shae's dreams came true when she became a member of Team USA's track and field relay pool for the Tokyo Olympics. Any and all celebrations, however, were paused once Mark experienced a health scare.
"Two days after I qualified for the Olympics in Eugene, Ore., my dad was not feeling good," Shae recalled. "I went to his room and he started shaking uncontrollably and I thought there's something wrong with him, so we called 911 and we found out he had a perforated colon."
When speaking to E! News at Luxury Experience & Co.'s pre-ESPYS event, which helped raise funds for Mark's medical care, Shae said her dad was still in the hospital recovering from surgery. And while the turn of events is something the college student never predicted, she's more motivated than ever before to make him proud.
"I've been doing all my workouts all by myself and trying to push myself and it's been kind of hard because I have the stress of knowing that my dad is not feeling good and also just taking on roles that my mom normally does around the house," Shae shared. "It was our goal for him to come to Tokyo with me, but with the way he is going to be recovering and stuff in the surgery, it's just not really an option right now."
Even though life has thrown Shae a curveball, she continues to focus on training until she leaves for Tokyo later this month. As the 22-year-old athlete said, she's determined to follow through with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after COVID-19 delayed the games for one year.
Regardless of whether she wins or not, Shae hopes her story will inspire families to remain close. And yes, she hopes to return home to one proud papa.
"I hope it inspires people to also appreciate your parents more because they're a big part of your life, especially my dad," she explained. "Now that I haven't had him with me, I realized how much I need him more than ever. Sorry dad, but you can't leave anytime. You're stuck with me because the past couple of weeks have been hard."