My Olympic flame still burns
The flame is long extinguished, political conventions are usurping the headlines, school is starting and Labor Day is upon us, but the Olympic Spirit still lives on in my heart. At the risk of repetition, (have mercy on me, people ” it’s been a long summer at home with my very energetic, noisy boys) it’s time for a little postmortem of the XXIX Games of the Olympiad.
First of all, I’m exhausted. Every night for 17 days, I couldn’t tear myself away from the “live” primetime coverage. It will take weeks to get over the sleep deprivation. I feel like I was in the Olympics myself, that I competed hard in Beijing and am now trying to adjust to the Mountain time zone.
Oh, but the exhilaration! With the exception of 3-year-old kids, when do you see such undisguised emotions? The absolute joy of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh upon winning the gold in beach volleyball, running around their giant sandbox in the pouring rain hugging everyone. Or the pure anguish of the U.S. women’s 4×100 relay when they dropped the baton on the final exchange of the preliminary race, right after watching the American men do the exact same thing.
I especially love the victory lap. There’s some variation of it in every sport. It’s their chance to savor the win, take in the moment, snap that mental video clip to power them through the next four years of training, or for some, to take with them into retirement. I think I may start wrapping myself a flag and taking a lap around the house when I make an exceptionally good dinner.
I noticed an interesting phenomenon occurring while watching the Games, in particular the sports that I played in high school. I started recalling information about them, details I hadn’t thought about in 20 years. This was strongest while I was watching the volleyball teams play. Some sort of muscle memory kicked in and I could remember what it felt like to make that perfect ace serve, to dig the ball off the floor, to put up a great block, to run the plays and that amazing sense of teamwork and camaraderie on the court.
It made me long for the days when I had a 24-inch jump reach and could dive and roll without being sore for a week. Maybe if I train like Dara Torres did and assemble a team of coaches, massage therapists, stretchers and trainers I could play again. Is there a master’s volleyball league around? I’d better stock up on Advil and ice packs.
One of my favorite things about the entire Games was something no one else got to enjoy. It was my husband’s analysis of every sport and how to improve upon it. It didn’t matter if he had never played the sport or even seen it before, he was the ultimate armchair coach. Of women’s gymnastics: “Those girls keep stepping out of bounds on their tumbling passes. They should just take one less step.” Beach volleyball: “That court is too big to be covered by two people. It should be smaller.” The best one was equestrians when a horse balked at a jump (I’ve only seen him on a horse once): “The commentator’s wrong. The horse wasn’t bothered by a bug. The rider made it turn too sharply.”
I not only admire the athletes for their physical abilities, I’m so impressed by their mental strength. Their determination and focus got them to the Olympics and carried them through the competition. Certainly Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever to don a Speedo, but skill alone could not garner him eight gold medals. His positive attitude and belief in himself is a great lesson for all of us, especially our kids.
I was also struck by the grace and good sportsmanship of many of the athletes. I think the Olympics brings out the best in us, reminds us that hard work, dedication and the right attitude can make anything possible. And it’s only 18 months until the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I just might be caught up on my sleep by then.
Linda Boyne is an Edwards resident and a regular columnist for the Vail Trail. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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