Taking my last breath, I kicked the water as hard as I could, and I stretched my arm for the wall. When I touch the tiled pool and sputtered to the surface, I realized I hadn’t won the race. A race against my grandfather. But in my mind, when I was just about seven years old, it had been against Mark Spitz. Then a few years later, I stood poised on the edge of the wooden beam, my balance steady as I made my dismount and landed, feet firm, on the mat. Surely, it was a routine worthy of a 10, just like Nadia’s. But only (again) in my mind.
Have you ever challenged an Olympic champion? I hope I’m not the only one with a crazy imagination. So maybe I wasn’t Olympic material. When I participated in sports, in my mind’s eye I was competing against the very best, striving for my very best. That’s what the Olympics is about: going for the gold. But it’s also so much more than that.
Mark Spitz. Nadia Comaneci. Scott Hamilton. Michael Phelps. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Mary Lou Retton. All of these very gifted and yet different athletes from separate Olympic games were champions, and they inspired me to be my best in whatever sport or activity I attempted. Sometimes I hit the mark, sometimes I missed it by a mile. But the point isn’t always achieving; the point is reaching farther than you ever dared dream possible.
This weekend marks the beginning of the 2012 Olympics in London. I cannot wait! I love the Olympics. I love the ‘up close and personal’ stories of people going for their dreams against all odds. And so many of the athletes we’ve cheered for over the years have faced disappointments and difficulties along the way.
Do you remember Olympic speed skater, Dan Jansen, who lost a sister? He kept trying, kept reaching for that dream. What about Olympians who suffered injuries? Or lost coaches? Or worked two jobs to pay for their training? So many stories. So many triumphs. I can’t remember all of their names, not all won the gold or even a bronze medal. For me, the Olympics aren’t just about who gets a medal placed around their neck. But it’s the triumph over tragedy. It’s the dusting off disappointments and trying again. It’s the buoyant human spirit.
This is a picture of my son fencing at USFA’s National Fencing Tournament in Reno, NV last year. He inspires me, because he never gives less than 110%.
So are you an Olympics watcher? What’s your favorite sport to watch? What athlete has inspired you?