What is the Olympics all about? Is it about the athletes and the teams, about national pride and medals, or about the realization of personal dreams?
Many would say it’s a healthy mix of all the above. But sometimes at the Olympics you get even more; you get stories that can make a grown man cry.
There’s a little bit of magic in those stories, and a perfect alignment of the stars. “It happened because it was just your time, it was just the moment, it was destiny unfolding in front of our eyes.”
When the goosebumps are real, you can’t ignore them. And the Olympics have a way of connecting people across the world through real human emotion.
In 1986, a 20-year-old Stefan Schauffele was hoping to join the German track and field team. Unfortunately, however, he got into a car accident caused by a drunk driver. And just like that, his dreams were shattered.
“The last memory of my Olympic dream was all the guys from the German decathlon team coming to my hospital room,” Schauffele was once quoted as saying. “It was an emotional farewell. Everything was over! My independence, my new life, my track career, my plans, and all my dreams.”
“I certainly had a death wish,” he had added. “Dark times. There was alcoholism, lots of recreational drugs, and other excesses before I came to my senses and learned to fully accept the new reality that presented itself.”
Moving on seemed like the only option for the young Schauffele. And that’s just what he did. He soon married a Japanese woman of Taiwanese descent, and in October 1993 the couple had a son – Alexander (Xander) Victor Schauffele.
Stefan Schauffele was deeply influenced by his grandfathers. They both played professional football in Europe, and as many athletes did back then, were multi-sport talents. Sport was destined to be a part of his life, and of his son’s life too.
Xander Schauffele’s serendipitous journey to Olympic glory
Xander picked up golf at a young age, and his only swing coach his entire life – till date – has been his dad. The duo meticulously worked on Xander’s biomechanics, and after years of diligent work he became one of the best junior golfers in California.
Xander transitioned from being a successful amateur in San Diego State University to the pro level in the 2016-17 season, following which he became the PGA tour rookie of the year.
The dream had been realized for both father and son. Xander had successfully made it on the PGA tour and by 2018, he was the runner-up at the Open Championships. He followed that up with strong finishes at the other Majors too.
What a journey, right? But it was about to get a lot crazier.
Xander qualified into Tokyo 2020 through his world ranking, going in as a part of Team USA. His father Stefan, still his swing coach, was by his side.
Just before the start of the event, Xander tweeted a picture with his dad in front of the Olympic rings, saying how much it meant for them to be there together. And everyone who saw the tweet knew that the stars had finally begun to align for the Schauffele family.
In Round 1 Xander shot a 68 (-3) and was 5 shots behind the leader. But after a blistering round 2 of 63 (-8), he found himself at the top of the leaderboard.
Xander stopped tweeting, and golf became his entire focus. It had started getting real.
After round 3, he found himself at (-14), with a 1 shot lead over Masters Champion and home favorite Hideki Matsuyama. Several others were just a couple of shots behind. The likes of Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Rory Sabbatini, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and Collin Morikawa were still in the hunt; the pressure was building up.
Despite the stiff challenges, Xander found a way to play some clutch golf when it mattered the most. He found a way to win the biggest title of his career after a two-year winless drought.
After all that he and his family had been through, Xander Schauffele was not just an Olympian anymore. He was now an Olympic champion.
As serendipitous as this sounds, golf was re-introduced to the Olympics only in 2016. Xander Schauffele winning the gold medal at Tokyo 2020 was not just his destiny, but also his father’s.
It was written in the stars, it just had to be!