I love watching the Olympics. Always have.
I’m partial to swimming. I suppose when you’ve participated in a sport you’re able to more deeply appreciate just how much better those athletes are than you ever hoped to be and what kind of sacrifice and dedication contributed to their success.
The news has been downright depressing lately. And while all that bad will still be there after the closing ceremonies, for now I’m content to cheer people on rather than shake my head and mourn for what they’ve become.
In past years my focus has been on the gold medal winners, but as I watched the parade of athletes during the opening ceremonies, I decided that while winning gold is a worthy goal, just getting there is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
Take Irish gymnast Kieran Behan for example. From the New York Times:
As a boy, Behan, now 23, had a series of injuries, two so severe that doctors told him he would never walk again. Nerve damage from a botched leg operation left his foot numb and causes excruciating pain even if his leg is touched ever so gently. Brain damage caused by his head hitting the high bar in training left him struggling to do simple tasks such as moving his head or eating.
Yet he fought back to become an Olympian, a goal he has had since he was 6.
On Saturday, though, the plucky Behan lost focus. On the floor exercise, his best event, he stumbled on two of his landings for a disappointing score of 13.966 points. He also competed on vault and scored 13.933 points.
Behan, the first Irish gymnast to qualify for the Olympics, did not make the final in either event.
When asked about not qualifying for the final event however, Behan was overcome with emotion. Not out of disappointment, but out of gratitude for the sacrifices so many had made to get him to London in the first place.
“It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in there,” he said, gesturing to the arena floor. “It’s how I’ve got to where I am now. But that isn’t the last people are going to see of me. I’ll be back because I’m a fighter.”
There are hundred of stories of sacrifice and triumph in the Olympic games. Most of them we’ll probably never hear about. I’m grateful I was able share just one with you.
Many of us spend so much of our lives focusing and striving for the destination that we forget to appreciate the journey.
As I watch the games over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be cheering the athletes towards their destination, but I’ll also be celebrating the journey they’ve endured to get there. Bravo.