Originally Published: August 29, 2016 12:42 a.m.
I want to be an Olympian. To run, jump, swim, pedal, shoot, throw, kick, punch or soar through the air is an inspiring thought.
Sadly, like most of us, I will never get to the Olympics except as a spectator. But after watching the world-class athletes give their all in some amazing and mind-boggling events, it does make me feel a bit more motivated to step up my exercise program. (Well, I don’t exactly have one.) You know, walking a bit longer, shoveling the horse manure a bit faster, lifting the saddle a little higher, mopping the floor a bit harder. These are things I can do.
What we saw in Rio was the culmination of thousands of athletes’ life efforts all compressed into one amazing race, game or event. Maybe it lasted minutes, perhaps the winner won by a fraction of a second, but the countless hours of devotion and sacrifice that these young people put into their sport is the real story.
Some Olympians are not so young! The equestrian champ is 62 years old. Devoted, skilled, strong people who practice for years for one chance ... one moment that might bring them a medal, or an off day that will haunt them forever.
There is truth to those words, “the agony of defeat.” Who can look away when a diver that should easily make the semi-finals and nails every dive just misses the cut by one place – after four years of diving practice? Or the heartache for Allyson Felix, who lost a race when her opponent head-dived across the finish? And the Dutch bicyclist set to take gold whom then crashes on the downhill run and ends up in the hospital?
Of course, the stars shone brightly in Rio, leaving us to wonder exactly if Michael Phelps is bionic. Twenty-three gold medals and although not really a surprise, quite a thrill! Can we ever forget the speed and smile of Usain Bolt? And what about those gymnasts? Simone Biles is my new champion and role model. Every time I go down to the barn I look at my hitching post, which is four inches wide, and I am left to wonder, could I do a back-flip on it? I have mentioned this to my husband, Doug, who then says let him know so he can have the ambulance on stand-by. Very funny Doug, but every athlete starts somewhere!
There was some boorish behavior at The Games. Hope Solo, the cranky and out-spoken goalie for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, said that Sweden’s team that beat them were a “bunch of cowards.” Come on Hope, be better. She has since been suspended. This is the Olympics and learn how to lose with grace. And then Ryan Lochte and fellow swimmers made up the story about how they were robbed at gunpoint to cover up their drunken, bad-boy behavior. We expect more from elite athletes! Grow up!
But we were given inspiration and heart-warming moments to take away and remember. Long-distance runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. collided on the track during the 5,000-meter race, resulting in a serious leg injury for D’Agostino. Urging each other on, the two women were able to finish the race by literally pulling each other up and sacrificing their chances at a finals berth along the way. It takes strength to be an Olympian. It takes heart to be a champion.
Dear Readers, let’s embrace the Olympic challenges. Walk the extra block, lift a bigger weight, swim one more lap and, maybe, try a back flip on an old hitching post. I will keep you posted on that progress! Here is to the champion in each of us!
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.