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Rick Bowmer, AP
Katherine Reutter-Adamek (5) competes in the women's 1000-meter during the U.S. Olympic short track speedskating trials Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
I’ve won a medal. And I’ve heard thousands of people screaming my name. I’ve never felt as loved as my family makes me feel now. It’s so much better than it was eight years go. —Katherine Reutter-Adamek

KEARNS — As her teammates reveled in making the 2018 Olympic team, Katherine Reutter-Adamek quietly, tearfully and gratefully basked in the beauty of her final masterpiece.

Sunday’s finale was not the picture the two-time Olympic medalist envisioned when she came out of retirement in 2016.

But her joy at what the last 18 months have offered her — both as a person and an athlete — are far more remarkable than capping a comeback with a trip to her second Winter Olympics. In her final day of racing, Reutter-Adamek reminded everyone that it isn't the prize we should seek but the opportunity to be our best.

“I told the girls before the B final,” she said, referring to her last 1,000-meter race Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval. “‘Thanks for being part of the last stroke of my masterpiece.’ Because I’m truly proud of what I’ve created, what I’ve built and how I’ve changed over the years.”

Reutter-Adamek has always been an effusive, emotional and passionate athlete. Her outgoing, high-energy personality made her a media favorite and a formidable competitor.

But she said constantly judging herself by results became debilitating. Pressure began to smash the joy and diminish the quality of her experiences.

After suffering chronic back and hip injuries, she decided to retire in 2013 at the age of 24.

The Illinois native became a coach, but she never felt she’d given the sport everything she had. So, midway through 2016, she returned to competing with the goal of making the 2018 Olympic team.

Falling short of that goal by the narrowest of margins, however, didn’t diminish how she felt about her comeback, which was stymied somewhat by a concussion that kept her off the ice for five months.

“I am glad I came back,” she said after finishing fifth in the three-day trials that took the top three women. “I have truly loved my process the last couple of years. I’m really lucky. I’ve met people who support me so much. I can’t imagine not having had the last two years of my life. I’m a better person. I’m a stronger person.”

She let the tears fall as she talked about what it felt like to win both silver and bronze in Vancouver in 2010.

“I’ve won a medal,” she said. “And I’ve heard thousands of people screaming my name. I’ve never felt as loved as my family makes me feel now. It’s so much better than it was eight years go.”

In 2010, she said, she was using the wrong measuring stick to determine whether or not she was succeeding.

“I didn’t have any balance in my life,” she said. “And I did measure everything by success or failure or lap times. Part of my process this time has truly been to let go of that judgment of myself and to give my best effort every single day.”

She admitted that she’d love to represent her country in one more Olympics. But she walks away with something she didn’t have in 2010, despite the medals hanging around her neck.

“No one can take away my effort,” she said. “You can’t take that effort away from anyone. You can take gold medals away, you can take records away, you can take someone’s confidence away with one bad comment. But no one can take your effort away. … And I gave it my best.”

She said reading the book “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck convinced her to measure her growth instead of fixed goals like times, wins or accomplishments.

“It’s easy to get into that fixed mindset,” she said. “Failure is forever. Failure is a defining characteristic. I have learned not to think that way, to truly believe that every day is an opportunity to give my best, my absolute best effort. I feel like every day is just another day to create a masterpiece.”