Olympic Fever

We’ve been swept up in Olympic Fever around here, taking in as much Olympics as we can. And since it’s a vacation, I’m probably watching more Olympics than I have in a long time. It’s really fun getting into the drama and the stories of each athlete.

But I have to say it breaks my heart when the silver medalist breaks down in tears. I know it’s not gold, but you’re second place in the entire freaking world. Buck up.

That was the image we saw of Russia’s Victoria Komova after the women’s individual all around. She lost to Gabby Douglas (Could anyone have a more infectious smile? Yes, Missy Franklin.) and collapsed in tears, inconsolable. She could barely even stand to wear the silver medal.

I get the disappointment, but it’s also the Olympics. You’re awesome. In a world of 7 billion people, you’re number two.

That was the sentiment of the jovial Missy Franklin: “I don’t think fourth at the Olympics is a disappointing swim at all,” she said, talking about teammate Lochte’s finish (though she had a fourth place of her own).

Then there’s 15-year-old Katie Ledecky who destroyed the field in the 800 meter freestyle, winning by more than 4 seconds. Afterword when asked how she did it, she said something to the effect of, “I set high goals and reached for them, and this just blew everything out of the water.” She gives the impression that her “high goals” were far short of gold. But there she is, a shocked and glorious winner.

Then there’s the Chinese athlete who won silver and broke down crying on live national media coverage, apologizing for letting his country down (it was an NPR story, can’t find it online). That’s harsh.

There’s also the 3-time gold medal winning Chinese diver who after winning her medal learned that her grandmother had died–more than a year ago. And that her mom had been battling breast cancer for years. Her family didn’t want the death to distract her from the Olympics. That’s a little too intense.

The Olympics are an amazing opportunity and a chance to celebrate human achievement and skill. It shouldn’t be a time for sore losers. Personally, I’m sitting here on the couch amazed at how these athletes can contort their bodies, whether it’s the cyclists pouring on the speed for the last sprint, the runners with their feet flying a fluorescent Nike blur, the gymnasts spinning in the air (and with biceps bigger than my head) or the soccer players running for 45 minutes straight. It’s incredible and inspiring.

Makes me want to run and bike and swim. And yesterday I did. One lap of the pool left me gasping. Not like the women’s 100 meter sprinters who hardly looked winded. That’s just incredible.

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