Olympic Dreams

After living through the seemingly endless ballyhoo of the Atlanta summer Olympics, which went on for years leading up to the actual event, I can’t say that I’m a devoted fan of the Olympics, but I’ll watch some of the Vancouver games. The most interesting are the most obscure. Give me sports I know almost nothing about like biathlon and moguls (a.k.a. knee torture). I find the action and the athletes fascinating.

I wonder how people get into these sports. For some the progression to less publicized sports seems logical: a hockey player discovers he prefers the intensity of speed skating, the pairs figure skaters realize that they aren’t strong jumpers so they move to ice dance. But the biathlete? The ski jumper? The bobsleder? How does that come about?

One of my favorite things about watching the Olympics is the cheesy shots of the parents in the stands. They seem to have no idea that most people don’t care about ski moguls. They cry and clap. They are so proud. They have probably given up a lot to give their child the opportunity to be here. To me, these little known sports embody the ideal of the Olympics. The athletes themselves practice day in and out in obscurity and sacrifice in ways I can only imagine for one shot every four years. They aren’t positioning themselves for corporate sponsorships or a professional career. (Or returning to their multi-million dollar day jobs as is the case with the men’s hockey players.) They found their talent and do it presumably because they love it. It’s their moment to shine, their fifteen minutes, and, unlike most of the ridiculous reality show stars, they deserve it.

But no matter the sport, the athletes are breathing life into their dreams, riding the opportunity like a surfer on a wave. One skater gave up her Japanese citizenship to join a famous coach in Russia. Chinese pairs skaters, competing together for eighteen years, have one last chance to win their first gold medal. One skiier had a metal plate implanted into her foot and then, six months later when it wasn’t healing properly, had another surgery to remove the plate. If nothing else, the Olympics is a chance to be inspired. What is your dream? What would you be willing to do to follow it?

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