Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Love the Olympics!!

I love the Olympics.

It doesn't matter if it is the Winter Olympics or the Summer Olympics.  If the Olympics are on then my TV is on that channel.

It doesn't matter what the sport is.  It doesn't even matter if the USA is participating at that moment.

I love the Olympics.

My first memory of watching the Olympics is watching Nadia Comaneci in 1976.  I was six years old.  I didn't know about communism and the Iron Curtain.  All I remember was that she was amazing and did really well.  It was fun to watch.

The Olympic event that really solidified my love of the Olympics was when Men's Hockey Team won the Gold at Lake Placid in 1980.  I was nine years old.  I didn't really care about hockey but got caught up in the excitement with my mom and step-dad.  Especially my mom!  lol  I remember us all yelling and shouting in excitement when they won.  Later we watched as the team received their gold medals, the flag rose and the National Anthem played.

I was hooked.

I didn't do any sports as a kid.  Interests were in other things and we didn't really have the money for the sports fees and buying the equipment so it wasn't something I focused on.  But I have always admired those that put in that work and effort.

When I watch the Olympics I see people that work hard to represent their country.  Most without even the thought or hope of getting a medal.  They are so excited to be there.  They savor every moment.  They soak it all in.  From the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies.

Some of my favorite Olympic moments don't even involve American athletes.

In the Summer Olympics in Australia there was a young swimmer from Equitorial Guinea that finished dead last in his heat for the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 1:52.72.  Still faster than I could do it but significantly slower than the winner of the gold medal who posted a time of 48.30.  What I remember about that heat was that the crowd cheered the young man who was coming in so far behind everyone else as if he was winning.  They cheered his effort.  They cheered the fact that he kept going.  They cheered his spirit.  It was awesome!!

I remember the Winter Olympics where a group of speed skaters that were fighting for the lead ended up falling and taking out most of the racers in the crash.  Except for the guy who was in last place.  He ended up skating past the mayhem and winning the heat.

Rulon Gardner won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Australia.  I was pregnant with my youngest and probably couldn't sleep.  I remember that it was on late in the evening.  The announcers kept explaining that it was going to be a long shot for Rulon to win.  His opponent had a long, long list of championships and wins that went on for years.  He had the experience and the track record.  He was going to win the gold.  Except he didn't.  Rulon won!  I remember him jumping around the mat, hugging his coach and his smile just never quit.  Glad he didn't listen to all the people that told him he didn't have a chance in hell to beat that guy.

The first year that the Olympics allowed professional basketball players to be on the teams.  I loved watching the basketball games that year the most.  Here were a bunch of guys that get paid a ridiculous amount of money to play basketball for the NBA.  It's their job.  They work hard at it.  But a lot of professional basketball players don't seem to have that love of the game anymore.  It's why I like watching college basketball better.  So the Summer Olympics in 1992 where the USA team had professionals was fun to watch.  Suddenly they weren't playing for themselves and a huge paycheck.  They were playing for national pride and a gold medal.  I loved it.

I love the medal ceremonies.  The flag being raised and the National Anthem of the Gold Medal winner is so cool to watch.  It doesn't matter the country.  Watching the athletes be so proud, humbled, overwhelmed and happy is amazing.  No matter where we are from or what our culture is, this part is the same.

The Rio Summer Olympics have been so much fun to watch!  As usual, amazing athletes doing amazing things.

Swimming has become more fun to watch over the years since my kids have participated on swim teams, both club and school teams.  My son played water polo so I enjoy that more as well.  When you know the work that goes into a sport more intimately the level of appreciation goes up I think.

Just like the rest of the country I loved watching the Women's Gymnastic team show their amazing talent, Michael Phelps set even more records for medals and Ashton Eaton win gold in the decathlon. That is just a few of epic things that happened during this Olympics.

One of my favorite moments was during the 5000 meter run.  Two women tripped and fell during one of the preliminary heats.  Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin both fell.  D'Agostino got up, but instead of taking off she turned and helped Hamblin get up and get started again.  It was awesome to watch and I loved it.  Then D'Agostino couldn't really run, turns out she had hurt her knee.  Hamblin was trying to help her along.  So much sportsmanship and concern for another person!  Not a teammate or anything.  Just someone struggling.  They both managed to finish and gave each other a big hug at the end.

That's what the Olympics is about!

That's what sports should be about.

Working hard to do your best but realizing sometimes that there is more to win than winning the race or the game.

Another moment from this Olympics is when the US Women's Water Polo team won the gold medal. This was my favorite medal ceremony by far!  Here are all these women and they aren't just mouthing the words to the Star Spangle Banner.  They are belting it out.  You could see that they were totally singing it out loud.  It was awesome!!!!

This morning I watched the Women's Olympic Triathlon.  It was so fun to watch.  Fun to see it with the perspective of doing one myself.  Of course, these ladies did theirs in half the time I did mine but still...

I may not have the speed or the experience of the women participating in the Olympics.  But I have done the work, put in the time and done the distance.  So I get it in a way that I wouldn't have during the last Olympics.

Gwen Jorgensen was the American woman that was the favorite to win.  She had participated in the London Olympics in 2012 and got a flat tire on the bike ride and her race fell apart at that point.  She was trying to have a different ending this time.

The commentators said that if she was at the front of the pack at the end of the bike ride then it would be really hard to beat her because she was so strong on the run.  That turned out to be very true.  The woman from Sweden stayed right behind her for most of the run.  At one point they had a little exchange where they both slowed down trying to let the other take the lead.  Some strategy going on there.  It was funny to watch the two women suddenly slow down and weave back and forth trying to let the other one go by.  Finally it got close to the finish, less than a mile and Jorgensen took off.  I thought she had been running fast before that.  Holey moley!  She just turned it on and left the Swedish woman way behind.

I watched as she came up to the tape across the finish line and could see that she was crying.  She paused a moment and grabbed the tape and lifted it over her head with tears pouring down her face.  She put her hands over her face and continued to cry.  Then she hugged the next athletes that came across the finish line.  Next she found her coach and hugged him and cried.

I was sitting here crying too.  Because I know how she felt.

Doesn't that sound strange?  I could completely relate to an Olympic Gold medalist.

It looked exactly like how I reacted and felt after finishing my Olympic distance triathlon.

The first thought is, "I can't believe I just did that!!"


Appreciation for the people around you that contributed to this amazing accomplishment.

Pride in the accomplishment.

Disbelief that it really happened.  "Holy shit, I really did that!"

More tears.

I watched the first American to ever win a gold medal in the triathlon event this morning.  I was 49th out of 52 women at my Olympic triathlon.  No comparison, right?  Wrong!

I probably will never stand on a podium winning a medal for my athletic ability.  I probably will never win an age group medal.

Today I knew that what I felt at the end of my triathlon mirrored the emotions that Gwen Jorgensen showed at the end of hers.  An Olympian who is a professional athlete and a teacher that is trying new challenges in order to be the healthiest she can be.

I just think that is really cool.

Someday I am going to attend an Olympic event and see some of these amazing things happen in person.

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy watching my own friends do amazing things and keep working at doing some amazing things of my own.

My hubby does his third Ironman tomorrow.  I'm volunteering at the race for a few hours so that I can be cheering on people doing their own version of awesomeness.

I can't wait!

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