By Juniper Bell On Aug 2 2012, 6:00 am
We don't have a TV. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me. It encourages our eight-year-old to entertain herself – she’s big on pretend, and her imagination rivals any TV show out there. When we need our media fix (and we do!) we watch DVD’s. When I’m not writing, I’m reading or seeking out weird news on the Internet. I’ve learned to live with the lack of TV.
Except when the Olympics roll around.
Then I go a little crazy. I see write-ups on the web – Fierce Five win first gold since the Magnificent Seven sixteen years ago! Well, I remember that last gold medal. I watched every second of that competition. I can still remember valiant little Kerri Strug being carried to the vault. All she had to do was land on her feet – one of which was wrapped from a severe sprain – and the Americans would win gold. I cried buckets during the live event and during each and every replay and highlight montage.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always connected to the Olympics in a very personal way. Those athletes may be physically a million times superior to me, but their struggles mirror my struggles. The persistence, the effort, the setbacks, the injuries, the self-doubt, the wavering will, the digging deep, the eventual triumph. They don’t all win, of course, but just to make it to the Games is an incredible achievement. My favorite Olympic heroes are the ones whose stories are played out over years or decades. For instance, Dan Jansen, who failed to medal at three Olympics, often for emotional reasons, before he finally won his first and only gold medal in the 1,000 meter speed skating event. If you've never seen his victory lap with his baby daughter, it's one of the great Olympic moments of all time…
But the ladies’ gymnastics will always hold a special place in my heart. Even reports of abusive practices and near-exploitation don’t, in my mind, take away from what these young girls are showing the world. When I watch them, I see the willpower and competitive spirit it takes to keep striving, day after day, year after year, to prove to yourself and everyone around you that you have something special to offer, that you can test yourself against the best and excel — and you don’t have to be male or even a grown-up to do it.
I know it can be a slippery slope to obsession, and since these athletes are training so young, they’re vulnerable to emotional manipulation. I hope every one of them has good guidance and healthy support systems – and I thank them for inspiring me to keep striving in my chosen field. That goes for all the athletes. I hope they realize, someday, what their sweat and tears mean to the rest of us.
Now back to reading all the Michael Phelps news. Most decorated Olympian ever … does that make him the Nora Roberts of the Olympics?
So what do the Olympics mean to you? What great stories am I missing this year?