Ski, Skate, Jump, Repeat

vancouver_2010The Olympic Games are truly magical.  Every four years, the best athletes in the world come together to show us what hard work and passion look like.  Some of them are familiar faces who resurface in our collective consciousness after four years of ambition, hard work, and injuries.  Then, there are the surprises, the unknowns, the upstarts.  The ones that no one expected would go that far.

I am amazed and inspired by all of these athletes, who sacrifice sleep, money, and time with friends and family in service of a singular goal.  I think of how much easier it would have been simply to do something else.  So much easier to stop when it got too intense.  Imagine, setting your sights on a goal so distant, so unreal, so void of guarantees… and then, giving up nearly everything else for that slimmest of chances.

It makes me feel like a child again, makes me wonder at the possibilities.  And, I don’t just mean I wonder at those athletes standing on the podium.  I do marvel at them, at the elation and pride I hope they are feeling in those moments.  But, sometimes, as I watch the media coverage, I wish that the Olympics didn’t have to be about superstars.  One or two people always come away from the Games looming larger than life, wearing their success in the form of endorsement deals, camera-ready hair and smiles, and glossy magazine photo shoots.  I often find myself thinking of the people who don’t make it to the podium.  The snowboarder who falls on a trick she’s done a thousand times during practice.  The figure skater who thinks his medal is a sure thing, only to watch someone else receive it.  I equally love the athletes who lose gracefully, and the ones who don’t.  I love the ones who never dreamt they would get a medal, but are having the times of their lives.  I love the ones who have that glint in their eye that means they’ve gotten a taste of the Games, that they’ll be back.

And, I think of the ones who dedicate their whole lives to an Olympic pursuit, and don’t get there at all, whether because of lack of resources, or injury, or simply because they couldn’t make the team.  I am in awe that they reached for something so gleaming and rare, at all.

The Olympic Games are inspiring because they remind us of all the ordinary mortals who keep their dreams in sight, and who don’t hold anything back in their journey toward accomplishing them.  These people – shall we call them fools?  – number a thousand for every Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White.  So, that’s why, at times, the Olympic coverage makes little sense (sometimes, even, makes me mad).  When glamour shots of the snowboarders are shown on a mega-screen behind them as they prepare to compete, or when the athletes (female only, of course) feel the need to wear flawless makeup during their events, knowing that their images will be broadcast around the world, the media has missed the point.  When coverage of women’s snowboarding means a video montage that includes showing the athletes in skimpy bikinis, complete with close-ups, well… then the media wasn’t even aiming for the point.

The point isn’t that these athletes are superheroes, or supermodels.  The point is that that they’re just like us.  They’re mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, and friends.  They’re just regular people who decided that realizing their dreams was worth risking it all.

And, for that, I thank them.  All of them.  Because I, for one, am enthralled.

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