It’s the Olympics!
The 23rd Winter Olympics closes today and we have been treated to some of the most exciting sporting events over the past seventeen days. I love the Olympics; both summer and winter. The events are exciting and our national pride swells when the U.S. Athletes succeed. We also get to witness how athletes respond to what many see as failure. When my children were young and we watched the events of the summer and winter Olympics together one of the most often phrases I would say when someone would not live up to the hype that the media had portrayed them to be; was: “It’s the Olympics”!
The Olympics bring a stress unlike no other sporting event. The pressure for an athlete to win the gold medal is so intense that many athletes fail to live up to the expectations of others. This past two weeks were no exception. There were many that did not win gold, and many that did; some that were not expected to. In the days leading up to the Olympics in PheongChang, South Korea we were introduced to the Athletes that were supposed to be the best in their sports and would certainly win gold for the U.S. The Washington Post’s Headline for today (Sunday, February 25, 2018) was “With 23 Medal, Team USA falls short of expectations at PyeongChang Olympics”. In the article they mentioned that the USA was projected to win anywhere from 25-59 medals so on the surface it appeared the article was saying that Team USA was a failure; far from it. Alan Ashley, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief of sport performance, was quoted as saying:
“I pay attention to the medals, too, but I also pay attention to the team, and we’ve got an amazing team. I feel like there were a lot of really, really close finishes. It was not as though we were in situations where you say, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this great achievement,’ and then we were 20th, 40th, 70th, whatever. Instead, we have this huge group of athletes that was this far away from being on the podium.”
“American athletes finished in either fourth, fifth or sixth place here 35 times, potential medals if the U.S. Olympian was a split-second faster or perhaps impressed a judge just a bit more. I think we can take those fourth through sixth places and help convert them to somebody’s dream of standing on the podium.” (Washington Post)
Many of these fourth, fifth, or sixth places were only hundredths of a second slower than those that were on the podium. Sometime we feel that if they did not make the podium they failed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? They made it to the OLYMPICS while we sit at home and criticize their performances? One person in the Washington Post’s article’s comment section reminded us: “the person that came in 104th in the biathlon was better than the other 7.5 billion people on the planet”. The majority of humanity have no clue what it takes to make it to the Olympics, or what it really takes to make it to the podium. Even if they did understand they would not be willing to make the sacrifice that it takes to get there. I was a distance runner in high school (and a pretty good one) and my coach told me that I had the potential to go to the Olympics. The only problem was I was not willing to put in the hours needed to go from being a good high school athlete to develop what was needed in college let alone the Olympics. I love what Lindsey Vonn said when asked about how she felt about her performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics. She called the expectations surrounding gold medals “pretty out of whack.” And then went on to say:
“They’re not necessarily what the Olympics are all about,” she said. “The Olympics are a unifying event, one that has profound impact on the entire world, so to quantify it in how many medals you have, I think, is not appropriate and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put in to be at these Games. We are all athletes and want to win, and we do our best but sometimes it is not it is not what we want.”
Lindsey said she had given her all in her races and felt she was successful even though she did not win gold as everyone expected of her. She was there to do her best for her grandfather who had fought in the Korean War and had passed away last November. The athletes of the 2018 Winter games like many other games are there competing for different reasons and often they are there in memory of other athletes or family members. The US Men’s Four-man Bobsled Teams were there racing in memory of Steven Holcomb, one of their team members from the past two Olympics, that passed away last May.
Nathan Chan and most of the other members of the US Figure Skating Team did not live up to the hype that the media had portrayed for them. I loved it when the commentators would introduce a team member as being perfect in all their performances and had never fallen; then when they would fall and everyone would be shocked. “It’s the Olympics” I would say. Then they would come back and be spectacular once the pressure was off.
Some of the best moments were from athletes that were not expected to win but did. One of those was Ester Ledeka from the Czech Republic who had never finished better than 19th in the Women’s Super-G – she won Gold! NBC had crowned the winner already and said that the others that were yet to compete had no chance of winning so they ended their coverage of that event and went on to another race. Then there is the US Men’s Curling Team that were almost out of the running because of losses in the preliminaries that came back an won gold,, the US’s first ever. I loved the US Women’s Hockey Team that for the fourth time went into the gold medal match with four-time gold medal winners, Team Canada. The last time they beat Canada was 20 years ago in 1998 but that did not stop them from achieving their dream. Then there is Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall who won gold, the first ever for Team USA, in the cross country team sprint event.
Every Olympics has those memorable moments, sometimes it is due to less than expected performances, but most of the time it is from those moments when the athletes rise above their own abilities and expectations and become Olympic champions. This year was the first time ever for a bobsled team from Nigeria and the first time ever an athlete from Jamaica competed in the skeleton race. The women’s Nigerian bobsled team can in 20 out of 20 and the Jamaican Skeleton athlete came in last, but to see them smile at the end of the race you would have thought they had won gold. To me, every olympic athletes are champions and should be recognized as such. They are the best of the best and the sacrifice they have made to represent their country should bring them honor and respect after all it is the Olympics.
Your comments and questions are welcome.