Friday, August 17, 2012

How Quickly We Forget

A sign of the times? With the exception of a few guest appearances on TV by some Olympic gold medalists, the games are "last week's news." All the hoopla, the real and fabricated rivalries, the daily medal count, the endless commentary, the dissection of each performance, the statistics, the broken records - over. The pomp and circumstance, like the flame, extinguished.

I do love the Olympics, especially the summer Olympics, but not for any of the above. Rather, it's the human element that grabs and holds my interest. The individual stories of dedication, discipline, and drive. Dreams realized and dreams crushed. Arrogance and humility side by side. The commitment of not just the athletes, but their families, and coaches, and communities. The incredible sacrifice for the sheer possibility of - in most cases - simply participating.

So, the two moments from these games that I place in my album of Olympic memories have nothing to do with gold medals or broken records. Not even anything to do with US athletes, but rather with two individuals whose names I can't recall, and in the case of one of them, the country she represented.

The first, the young South African runner, competing in a semi-final heat, finishing last, but finishing - on prosthetic blades he's worn since losing both legs as a child. Cheered on by the crowd and embraced by the winner, it didn't matter that he finished last. He finished. And realized his dream of competing against able-bodied runners in the Olympics and making it to the semi-finals. No medal, no beating his chest, no self-congratulatory boasts. Just humble acknowledgment, satisfaction, and appreciation.

The second image - one I caught accidentally. A young female runner, the first woman representative of her Arabic nation. No skin tight leotard for her. Again, finishing last, but finishing. Her own record, though. The first woman - from an Arabic nation!

I've thought about these two young people often this past week. About their courage, persistence and tenacity in the face of overwhelming obstacles, obstacles most Americans can't imagine. Driven, not by gold medals or breaking records, or potential endorsements, but by some inner desire to do their personal best. And in doing so, accomplishing what so many would consider impossible.

I'm chagrined by my ruminations over how to spend my summer. So thank you, wherever you are, for your inspiration.  For reminding me, once again, that what I complain about or fret over is often merely inconvenient or uncomfortable!

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