It may be an earmark that I am growing older, but I can’t believe the last Winter Olympics were in 2006. It just doesn’t seem that long ago. The Olympics snuck up on me recently and presented itself as this week’s topic.
My interest in the Olympics is not evenly divided between all events. I wait for my wife to fall asleep so I can switch from ice dancing back to something else; just like I did during the summer Olympics during the men’s synchronized swimming event. The television coverage is very high quality. Although I miss the late Jim McKay announcing another “perfect telemark landing” in the ski jumping event, I like Bob Costas and is probably understands more about the Olympics than anyone in broadcasting.
There are few events which have such great stories from behind the scenes. Joannie Rochette’s touching performance in the figure skating short program just two days after her mother’s death, skier Bodie Miller who has shed his past immaturity and has become arguably the world’s greatest skier. There is also the story of Ghana, Africa’s first downhill skier, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, more commonly known as the snow leopard. I think my favorite story from Vancouver didn’t involve Olympic competition but rather of Isobel, a blind sled dog. Isobel lost her eyesight five years ago and was consigned to a life away from the joy of flight upon crusty snow with her fellow huskies. She became depressed at her early retirement to the point she wouldn’t eat. Her owners knew she had nothing to lose and so put her back to work. Isobel relies on the dog she’s paired with for direction but pulls her own weight and has returned to competition. She sees enough to know joy.
Maybe that is the story of the Olympics; the joy of competing. I don’t mean winning medals but the simple joy of trying to be better and to live as one should; to find motivation in accomplishment rather than fear. To pursue life rather than be chased by it from one bad decision to the next. It is the effort invested in the goal that is the reward, the medals are only acknowledgement by others of your accomplishment. It is the lesson that as long as you are trying, you are living.
By the time you read this column we will know whether the United States has won gold in women’s hockey. It will remain a question of how the men will finish. 30 years ago, I was sitting on my sister’s floor watching the United States defeat the dominant USSR team in the men’s hockey semifinals of the Lake Placid Olympics. This win came at a time when the United States was a little lost and needed a boost of pride and has become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” During this Olympics we have watched a blind dog race, an Olympian skier from a country without snow and even a young woman skate for her deceased mother and touch hearts she‘s never even met. At a time when America has stepped away from the principles and path that made us great, maybe this Olympics will do what it did three decades ago; maybe it is time to start believing in miracles.