February 22, 2018

Olympic Spirit

Olympic SpiritBy Ann Van De Water

Like most people, I have been watching a lot of the Olympics this week.  The physical skills and athletic feats are inspiring.  The individual stories of the athletes, the family support, and the team spirit are heartwarming.  The patriotic exhibitions, national anthems, and flag waving are a wonderful mosaic of the global community.  The hard work, goal setting, and amazingly intense focus of the athletes are incredibly impressive.


And yet, though I may be thought un-American, sometimes the subjectiveness of a judge’s ruling or the millisecond of a difference between someone getting a gold medal versus a silver medal or someone getting a medal or not getting one at all, makes me think, so what?  Is that what it comes down to at the end?  Despite all the work and sacrifice of training over the past four years or more, during one very short period of time, an athlete’s performance is a bit off or a judge’s error occurs, and this makes the difference between one person’s career soaring or tanking, between the athlete being a winner or a loser.


I live in an area where just like in Garrison Keilor’s Lake Wobegone, “all the children are above average.”  That is to say, if your child is not a superstar in the classroom or the athletic arena, he or she is sometimes seen as a second class citizen.  One of my kids is such a superstar.  Her twin sister is “merely” a good student and her interests are more artsy and social than athletic.


A couple years ago, my girls had timed runs in P.E.  One of my daughters REALLY wanted to make the Presidential fitness testing.  She is very small and she ran very hard that day.  She came in at the top of her class in the run.  She was very excited about her time and I was proud of her.


I asked my other daughter how the run went for her, knowing she was probably in the middle of, or maybe towards the bottom of, the pack.  By the way, she is very tall and lanky, like her Dad who is an ultra-marathon runner, and she looks like she would be a great runner.  But she does not like to run.


“Well, I came in at the end,” she said. 


“Oh, what happened?” I asked.


“One of the girls in my class is always last and I feel so bad for her.  I’m sure she must be embarrassed.  So I ran with her.  I knew I wasn’t going to be one of the first ones, so it didn’t really matter when I came in.  We ran together and that way we were both at the end, so neither of us was last.”


I was very proud of her and her (almost) last place finish.


Ann is a former high school English teacher and now a stay-at-home mom of 10-year-old twin girls. 


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