Alana Smith didn't leave the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a medal, but they're still a winner.
In a post shared to Instagram on July 26, the 20-year-old skateboarder, who is non-binary, reflected on their time at the Games and all that they accomplished.
"What a wild f***ing ride…," Smith wrote. "My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me. For the first time in my entire life, I'm proud of the person I've worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling. Out of everything I've done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling. The feeling in my heart says I did that."
The athlete is one of 16 members of the U.S. skateboarding team who competed in the sport's Olympic debut. And while Smith placed last in their event, they couldn't have been happier for the experience.
"Last night I had a moment on the balcony, I'm not religious or have anyone/anything I talk to. Last night I thanked whoever it was out there that gave me the chance to not leave this world the night I laid in the middle of the road," Smith, who has previously spoken about attempting suicide in 2019, continued. "I feel happy to be alive and feel like I'm meant to be here for possibly the first time in a extremely long time. On or off day, I walked out of this happy and alive… Thats all I have ever asked for."
Near the end of their post, Smith thanked their fans for their support. "Thank you to all the incredible humans that have supported me through so many waves of life," they continued. "I can't wait to skate for the love of it again, not only for a contest. Which is wild considering a contest helped me find my love for it again."
During the competition, Smith proudly held up their skateboard, which featured their pronouns they/them written across the top. However, some commentators misgendered Smith when discussing their performance. NBC Sports later issued an apology for streaming an international feed that misgendered Smith.
"NBC Sports is committed to—and understands the importance of—using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms," the network said in a statement NBC News obtained from a GLAAD press release. "While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers."
About a month before the Games, Smith shared a message with their followers about how it "feels unreal being where I'm at now in comparison to the beginning of my Olympic journey."
"Through the pandemic I really took the time to learn about myself and find the human I am, a nonbinary individual," they later wrote. "With that said, I got really emotional at the press conference because this was one: my moment of coming out to the world but two: I get to unapologetically be me for the first time in my entire life… despite lots of people telling me I would never get here if I stayed true to who I really am. Whether you're out or not, I want you to know you're loved, accepted and I'm doing this for YOU."
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family).