There’s just something about the Olympics.
Vaulted onto the world’s stage every four years, we can’t help but take notice.
As we should. For casual observers, addicted as we may be, it is an event that takes place every four years.
But clearly, what we are witnessing is a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice. Though these now famous faces appear on our television screens for less than ten minutes, they represent the dreams and determination that brought them this far, long before we had ever heard of them.
I saw a clip from the 2000 Olympics of Michael Phelps competing as a 15-year-old in his first Olympic meet. No one remembered his name after those first Olympics.
Gabby Douglas, the Darling of this Olympic Games, says she remembers watching her first Olympics in 2004, when she was 8. This was also the first time she won her first all around gold medal in the state of Virginia, just two years after her first gymnastics lesson. In October of last year, she elected to move to Iowa to train with a coach who did not even remember her from a clinic he had held at her home gym. But she remembered him, and was impressed with a particular move he was able to teach her in a single afternoon.
Misty May-Trainer and Kerri Walsh Jennings have been playing volleyball as a team since 2001. But prior to this, Misty actually appeared in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia with a different partner, and placed fifth. Her story could have very easily ended there, content to have competed in the Olympics at all. But she wanted more, and was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish her goals. Once she teamed with Kerri, they swept both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics without ever losing a set.
There are many more stories of athletes who overcame defeat to reach such a level of greatness.
But they all share one thing in common.
At one time, they were the only ones who believed in their dream. But they continued to show up, to seek guidance, to push harder and further. To become stronger. To overcome injuries. To break their own records.
They prepared when no one else was looking. Long before we cared enough to cheer.
Thank goodness, they never gave up.
I love sports for this reason. It’s not the event, or the particular sport. It’s the people, and I love the way God uses sports to share their stories.
And one of my favorite Olympic stories of all time has to be that of Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. A double amputee before the age of one, he confesses to putting on his legs each morning as his brother was putting on his shoes. His dreams of running competitively came later in life, but he quickly dominated the field of runners in those with ‘disabilities’ such as his own. He longed to run in the Olympics alongside the best runners in the world. Because he also had a dream that no one but himself believed in.
He deserves a gold medal for crossing that finish line, regardless of his last place finish.
He finished. He fulfilled his dream. He wins. He showed up every single day, when no one else was looking. He deserves a place on this world stage, perhaps that of being the biggest winner of them all.
How I love the Olympics, and what I can learn from them.
Sports is not my thing. But I do have a few dreams that for now, I am the only one who believes in. But I will continue to show up every day, and maybe one day, the world will know….