Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hope Revived

Every four years the world is treated to the Olympic Summer Games. And this year those games are held in London, England. When you read this there will only be a few days left of this two-week pageant.

Allow me to share a few of my personal observations. Like many of you, I have sat up each evening watching the wrap-up of the day’s events – everything from the May-Walsh beach volleyball duo, to Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin in the swimming venue, to Gabby Douglas leading the women’s gymnastics team. I am always impressed with the dedication by each athlete to their respective sport. The countless hours spent perfecting routines in nameless gyms and sports arenas across the country merely prove the presence of an indomitable spirit for sports competition within the soul of every one of us. Even if you’re a couch potato, there’s an inner-athlete in you cheering on your favorite competitor.

At the top of the list that stands out for me is the camaraderie that is shared amongst the athletes; not just from the same sport, or even the same nation, but the respect that is exhibited between all participants regardless of their nationality. This is what brings a spark of hope to my soul. To witness the interaction of these world-class athletes with their game-faces on just prior to their specialty, to congratulating one-another, win, lose, or draw, is the closest to world peace that you and I will probably ever witness this side of heaven.

The next example from these Olympics is the parental support for these athletes. They have driven their child to countless practice sessions and competitions in the pursuit of athletic perfection. They have agonized as their child has experienced the highs and lows of sports. Few of these athletes come from families with the financial means to undertake the investment of funds necessary to sustain their child’s dreams of Olympic competition. During these games the TV camera was frequently on the parents of an athlete. Some parents are quite animated and vocal while sitting in their lofty perches in the nose-bleed seats, and other parents are more stoic, showing little if any emotion regardless of whether their child is blowing away the competition, or is self-destructing, dashing all hopes of winning the coveted Olympic medal. Personally, I’d be a wreck watching my child perform on such a grand stage. Industrial giant Proctor & Gamble (P&G) underwrites some of the cost for our athletes through their advertising. The ad spots they have had on TV are first rate – particularly in their acknowledgment of the irreplaceable roll the parents have in the success of their child.

My third and final observation for this article is the wonderful character of these Olympians. I’m not suggesting they are perfect human beings – not at all. What I am saying is that the true character of these dedicated athletes comes out under the pressure of the competition and the ever present camera/microphone. How do you not feel a thrill rooting for the diminutive 4’11” Gabby Douglas with her million-dollar smile? She carried the American women’s gymnastics team on her small shoulders, not only leading them to the team gold, but also an individual gold in the all-around competition, defeating the Russians and the Chinese!

Another favorite athlete for me was the young American swimmer, Missy Franklin. She was always smiling – as though she knew something no one else knew. Her exuberance was irrepressible! It was clear that she was absolutely having a ball! I found myself smiling each and every time I saw her on the TV screen. Talk about character – this 17-year-old high school student passed up swimming for sports clubs, and instead focused on swimming for her parochial school. She and her parents also turned down numerous offers for endorsements. Well, it has now paid off. She is literally golden, having won four gold medals and one bronze. I’m quite certain she’ll be able to attend any college she wants next year. And as for those endorsements? Take a number and get in line!

Last but hardly least, is the greatest Olympic athlete of all time – Michael Phelps. What this man has managed to accomplish in the swimming pool is beyond comprehension. They call him “Superman.” In his final event, he took gold again in a four-man relay. Michael has participated in four Olympics: 2000 in Sydney, Australia; 2004 in Athens, Greece; 2008 in Beijing, China; and 2012 in London, England. Along the way he accumulated 18 gold medals and four others for a grand total, and new world record, of 22 medals. He has stated unequivocally that at his present age of 27 he is done. London was his last Olympics. But you have to wonder if four years from now when the 2016 Olympics are held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Michael, being the intense competitor that he is, might not want to give it one more shot. It would be worth watching.

By the end of this Olympics I’ll be exhausted! I’ll need to rest up before the Winter Olympics commence in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Can’t wait!

       Go Team U.S.A.!

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