Monday, August 11, 2008
Can I just say that I LOVE the Olympics? You only get to see the athletes every four years, wait with great anticipation for the opening ceremonies, and get a little boost of patriotism. It started way back when I was just four. We didn't have a TV at our house, and my lovely grandparents thought we might like to watch the Olympics. They were held in Los Angeles, which meant that most of the events took place when we were awake to watch them. They gave us a small black and white screen, and we were able to watch some of the most remarkable performances ever. I remember watching Mary Lou Retton get her 10, then in 1988 watching Greg Louganis crack his head wide open and the teddy bear he bandaged up. I love the Olympics. I remember watching Katerina Witt practice in the hallway, and when she skated to Bizet's Carmen. I remember Gordeeva and Grinkov in their navy blue outfits, and then being devastated when he died. I remember watching Carl Lewis win race after race and event after event. My heart rate shot up when I watched a little girl about my age sing while rising to the night sky in France. I remember watching Janet Evans pass the torch to Muhammad Ali, shaking mightily from the Parkinson's that resulted from his ferocious boxing. And I wondered if my grandfather, who had helped spark my Olympic fanhood, would one day shake like him.
Now I get to introduce the Olympics to my sons. Levi doesn't quite get it yet (of course he also doesn't quite understand that the world is divided into countries.) But A.J., on the other hand, is starting to really get into it. He looks for the Americans in every race (he likes the swimming a lot). The "Go World" commercials that have been playing often remind us of great accomplishments, or great efforts, and I try to point them out to A.J. One of my favorites is the British runner who got a horrible hamstring cramp in the 200m sprint in 1992 and fell to the track, only to get up and start hopping toward the finish. In the ultimate gesture of unconditional love and family support, his Dad ran on to the track, picked up his son, and together they finished the race.
Of course, the likelihood that either of them ever go to the Olympics is insanely remote. But maybe by watching the effort and work of all the athletes, even the ones with not even a prayer of a medal, they will want to emulate that. In just the last Olympics, a swimmer in that very position persevered. Third world countries are often given "freebie" entrants into track and field and swimming events. Three of these participants were in a heat of their own for the men's 100m freestyle swim. Two men had false starts, so only one man swam in this heat. He had never swum even 50m at once before. His swim trial was held in a hotel pool, with no full size pool in his African country. Some of the crowd noticed that he was faltering, and might not be able to finish. They began to cheer as if he were their own and was racing for the gold. He was boosted by their support and was able to finish, even though he was exhausted. Camaraderie and kindness such as was shown by the crowd that day are what the Olympics are all about. He could barely swim, but he did his absolute best.
The Olympics make me want to do better. To be better. To work harder. To give my all.
Posted by Bethany Pabst at 12:56 AM