What makes an athlete successful?
Most parents like to think it's good genes and what they have taught their children at home or in the backyard. Most coaches think it's the mental toughness, hard work and preparation before the competition. Most athletes like to think it's the dedication and sacrifices they make. Perhaps it's a combination.
There are many reasons athletes become successful on and off the field. Here is some advice from some of America's best athletes and Olympic Gold Medal winners and what they each shared with our amateur athletes at the Virginia Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies over the years.
Advice from the Olympians
Shannon Miller - 7 time Olympic medalist in gymnastics & the most decorated American gymnast in history:
"Have fun with what you are doing; always enjoy it."
Tom Brands - Olympic Gold medalist in wrestling
"Life and sports are directly proportional. What we get out of them is what we put in them."
Rulon Gardner - Olympic Gold medal-winner in wrestling
"Come out and enjoy it, enjoy the competition, but remember it's about sportsmanship, it's about enjoying the sport, the challenge of the sport. It's not about winning the Gold medal. They're nice and wonderful, but in your heart if you know you did your best, as an individual, it's the key to life."
Tom Dolan - 2 time Olympic gold medalist in swimming (Coventry Commonwealth Games participant in 1990)
"If you're not enjoying what you are doing and truly loving what you do everyday...it's what gets you up at 4:30 in the morning and when you put your head on the pillow at  night and what helps you go to sleep and helps you get ready for the next day. It's as simple as that for young people."
Zina Garrison - Olympic Gold medalist in tennis
"Anything you want to do and be successful...first, you must love yourself and second, you need to understand it is a game. There's always going to be another chance, another opportunity and you can't get away from working hard. There's no way you can get around working hard, you have to work hard to be the best you can possibly be."
Dominique Dawes - 3 time Olympic medalist in gymnastics
"Amateur sports is where it's at. That's the place where you learn the intangible traits to build a strong foundation for future success in whatever you choose. It's the value of becoming goal-oriented, working through obstacles and challenges."
Rebecca Lobo - Olympic Gold medalist in basketball
"Athletics have been very important to me. Not just because basketball has taken me around the world and provided a career, but it gave me tremendous confidence when I was a kid. It might have been difficult for this 6-foot-tall, 12 year-old to feel good about herself without the confidence that sports - primarily basketball - provided."
John Register -Paralympic Silver medalist in track & field                                                                                                  
"Get inspired by these Commonwealth games of Virginia and then Dream Big! You can accomplish what you want in life if you are willing to work hard for it. Never quit, whether in school, work or in sport because there is no substitution for hard work. Set goals and follow your passions! Following your passions means you will never work a day in your life!On your mark, set! Go Forth and Inspire the World the at the Commonwealth Games!"  Follow John on Twitter @JFRegister