Inspiring words from 7 Olympic stars

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DANA POINT, Calif. -- There was serious Olympic hardware on display Friday night at the 2016 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, with a panel of seven Olympic stars. Not surprisingly, these women were incredibly motivating. Some of their best, hard-earned advice:

Make the decision -- in every moment -- to be positive.

April Ross, beach volleyball (two-time Olympic medalist): I'm one of the best beach volleyball players in the world but I was still, up until a few years ago, really insecure, and always asking myself, 'Am I really good enough?'

Those doubts always seep in if you let them. It's a conscious decision to not let them ... and choose a good thought over a bad thought every second of the day. It does add up and it does help. It's gotten me to a place where I'm not afraid to be great.

Remember what you want to represent.

Maggie Steffens, water polo (two-time gold medalist): As a kid, every time we walked out the door, stepped out on the soccer field, basketball court or in the pool, [my dad would] tell us, 'Remember your last name.' ... At first, I was a kid, and I was like, yeah obviously. Cool, Dad.

But slowly, but surely, after going through this process, the day in, day out grind and trying to achieve your dream, [I realized] what that meant to represent your last name ... Being an Olympian is not about the title, it's about what you do with it. It's about the name that you're representing and it's no longer about just your last name ... it's your entire team's last name, and now your last name is the United States of America.

Know how influential you may already be.

Ashleigh Johnson, water polo (gold medalist in 2016): We went to the Netherlands and this little girl and her mom came up to me and they were so happy to see me play. They told me, 'We don't have any black women that play at high levels in water polo in the Netherlands. ... We have no one to look up to in the sport. We've been following your team because you're here.' It was so amazing to me because I'd never thought of myself in that role -- as someone little boys and little girls look up to.

Bring balance to your training.

Kayla Harrison, judo (two-time gold medalist): For me, the balance really is this: I use this [sport] as a platform. This is great, and winning gold medals is awesome, but it's a very selfish thing. Judo is amazing and I love it and I love to beat people up -- but I do it for me. I don't do it for anybody else. So the balance is having something outside that that I care about and I pursue for other people.

Harrison founded the Fearless Foundation, a non-profit aimed at helping prevent child sexual abuse.

Enjoy the process, and measure your success by that.

Maya DiRado, swimming (four-time medalist in 2016): It's great to come out of this journey with these [medals] and with this really obvious expression of success, but the joy was in the 15 years leading up to it, and growing as a person and learning how to work hard, to keep going, keep going, keep going and be the best version of [myself].

Dalilah Muhammad, 400-meter hurdles (first-ever gold U.S. gold medalist in her event): It's only after the race and after the fact that you realize that [finishing second] isn't even close to failure. The true success happened ... at the beginning when you started training for the Olympics, every time you fell during practice and got back up, every time you wanted to play, but didn't. Winning the medal happens in a moment, but it's really that process that you took to get there.

Have role models -- but don't compare yourself to them.

Helen Maroulis, wrestling (first-ever U.S. gold medalist in women's wrestling): I never felt like I had the mindset that it took to be a champion. If you told me I can't, I'd probably just be like, 'OK, I guess so.' But wrestling was truly my passion so I stuck with it. ... When wrestling became an Olympic sport it was the best thing ever because I had females to look up to, but then I compared myself to them. ... I would think, 'What if I can't ever do that, what if I can't achieve that?' So my advice is -- and it's from my pastor: Don't compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else's highlight reel. And that made a huge difference for me.

And never be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Even these Olympic stars have their moments. They also shared their most embarrassing experiences -- which include President Obama and Aly Raisman's socks, among others:


Embarrassing moments at an Olympic level

Olympic medalist Kayla Harrison, Ashleigh Johnson and April Ross share their most embarrassing moments at the espnW summit.