by Max Brantley
I grew up on a farm in northwest Arkansas, a little bit outside Fayetteville, where I spent every day riding horses in the Ozark National Forest with my sister, who is also an Olympian. The National Forest was basically our backyard, and for a time my mom ran a bed and breakfast in the area. As kids, we ran all the trails and swam in all of the protected streams and rivers. Growing up next to the Ozark National Forest shaped me as an athlete and pushed me to become an Olympian.Isaksen, who now lives in Colorado, said she feared the sale of public lands for corporate use could cost Americans "part of our identity as a country." She finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in her event, which includes, in the course of one day, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show horse jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting, and a 3200m cross-country run. More bio here.
More importantly, growing up alongside public lands formed who I am as a person.
We didn't have a TV growing up. Our entertainment was the outdoors. There's something so precious about being truly alone in the great outdoors. On our farm and in the forest, you can walk outside in the summertime and all you hear are the crickets.
Even after all the traveling I've done for my sport, the memory of those summers and outdoor spaces still resonates with me. When I recall the wonderful childhood memories I have of growing up in the outdoors, there's a part of me that would do anything to get back to those times. The National Forest holds such a special place in my heart. It also played a very important role in my becoming an Olympian.