I confess – I’m an Olympics junkie. I love everything about them. Whether we’re talking about a gold medal favorite or an athlete whose Olympic dream is simply to participate for his country, I believe the entire endeavor brings out the best in most everyone.
Over these seventeen days, there are so many things that caught my attention. Here are just a few of them:
- Kimberly Rhodes won three gold medals in three Olympics for skeet shooting. In London she did it by hitting 99 out of 100 targets. Her first thought afterward: I’m going to Rio in 2016 – gotta make it 100 for 100.
- Missy Franklin is 17 years old. What was I doing when I was 17?
- Too bad we still live in a world where an “unbelievable” performance probably is.
- Dana Vollmer won a gold in the 100 meter butterfly with a world record time of 55.89 seconds. When asked how she was able to go under 56 seconds, her answer was: “I knew I could.” Belief trumps almost everything else.
- Pundits project winners and losers based on stats. In the bike road race, the British favorite, Mark Cavendish, who has been dubbed “The Fastest Biker on Earth” placed a dismal 29th while Alexander Vinokourov from Kazakhstan, who most people considered to be retired, took home the gold. How’s that predicting stuff workin’ out?
- I saw a piece on what happens when you’re an equestrian athlete and you have to get your horse to the event. I’ll never again complain about getting my bike to a race.
- Usain Bolt! ‘Nuff said.
- Have you ever seen anyone more excited and happy than Mo Farah in his 10k/5K double golds? It was well deserved. He was a man on a mission and it worked for him.
- Oscar Pistorius is one of the athletes who knew he wouldn’t win but just wanted to compete as an Olympian. Pretty lofty dreams for a kid with two missing legs. To watch him run down the track, I couldn’t help but envision him crashing down barriers. Good for Oscar.
- Title IX: Think we’d have had the female participation and success that we had this year if girls hadn’t been given the opportunity to play with the boys through this brilliant piece of legislation forty years ago?
- Katie Ledecky, at fifteen, was too young to know she couldn’t swim 800 meters that fast. But she did, while breaking the long-standing record of her idol, Janet Evans. She just jumped into the pool and swam her heart out.
- Misty and Kerry, beach volleyball royalty, simply refuse to lose. If you happen to take one game from them, stand back. They’re gonna murder you in the next game.
- Every four years we become experts and are heard to say such things as:
- She didn’t stick her landing.
- He was slow off the blocks.
- He over-rotated on his entry.
- Rebecca Soni has a technique in her breast stroke that a coach should have tried to change. It’s not what the text book says it should be. But, thankfully, her coaches left her alone, marveling at how fast she swims with a strange stroke – fast enough to set a new world record in the 200 meters while bringing home the gold. Once in a while that works.
- It brings tears to your eyes when you see an athlete who’s faced and beaten huge odds. Kinda puts things in perspective.
- Bolt, who is quick to tell the world that he’s a legend, won me over when, during a post-race interview, he stopped and said: “There’s an awards ceremony going on.” He stood quietly, giving his full attention to the other athletes receiving their medals before finishing the interview. Showed me a side of him I didn’t know existed. Good for him.
- Athletes who rise to the top in the Olympics share one characteristic: They’re all fearless in their pursuit of excellence. I saw many examples of men and women who went so far out of their comfort zone, they knew the result would be a complete success or total failure. But these folks were ready and willing to take that risk. As Franz Klammer, an Olympic skier, once said: “To win you have to risk losing.” In my opinion, it simply doesn’t get any better than that.
I can’t wait for the Winter Olympics in 2014 where I plan to become an expert on short track speed skating and curling.