Every couple of years I get to indulge in watching the excitement and spectacle of the Olympic Games. I've loved them -- both summer and winter versions -- as long as I can remember. I really admire athletes who devote so much time and effort to perfecting their skills. Superman of the pool Michael Phelps spends 30 hours a week in training. You can tell each time he steps up to start a race. I'm not sure there's an ounce of fat on that boy's body.
But it's often the stories behind the athletes and their performances that are really inspiring. Stories of parents who sacrifice by living in two different cities so their daughters can train with the best, ones of athletes who've come back from surgeries and painful injuries to compete on the Olympic stage one last time, athletes older than the the Olympic norm determined to show they are still among the best. But while these stories are remarkable, it's often the ones of the athletes from nations who don't enjoy the conditions American athletes do that touch the heart even more.
Last night, I watched as Kirsty Coventry, the gold-medal-winning swimmer from Zimbabwe, talked about how for a brief while her success at the Athens games four years ago helped her countrymen put aside their racial and political differences and celebrate in the streets. The Olympics had barely gotten under way this year when conflict broke out between Russian and Georgian troops. Yet, at the Olympics, athletes from those two countries didn't let the conflict affect their friendships. That's Olympic spirit.
And who can forget Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea, who stole the show at the Sydney games not because of his brilliant performance, but because of the fact that he was there at all. He had only taken up swimming 8 months prior to the games and had never seen an Olympic-size swimming pool before arriving in Sydney. But he got into the Olympics through a wild card program established to encourage athletes in developing nations. Even though his finish time was more than twice that of his competitors and at some points people would wonder if he'd make it at all, his efforts touched the hearts of millions of those watching and earned himself the nickname "Eric the Eel" as a result.
I love, too, how the Olympics show the melting pot quality of America. Take, for instance, the men's gymnastics team competition a few nights ago. The three competitors for Team USA were of Chinese, Russian and Indian descent. And Nastia Liukin, who won the all-around gold last night for the USA, was born in Moscow. Her father had won gold for his home country.
Whether it's the Olympics, writing, or any other endeavor, I really admire those who give it their all to succeed but who don't forget to help others along the way. I'd like to see more of the true Olympic spirit spill out into all aspects of our lives.
So, any other Olympics fans out there? What has been your favorite Olympic moments of the Beijing games so far?