So here we are a little over a week into the 2008 Olympic Games and all I can think is how happy I am that we still have another to go. For months I waited for 8-8-08 with the same expectation I had as a child when my family would count down the days to watch. The only real difference is that back then my focus was on Mary Lou and today my eyes are on everyone, no matter the sport, no matter the nationality.
These days I watch with my family over the phone. The other night I spent an hour on with my sister in a back and forth commentary about the evening’s highlights. We began with beach volleyball and moved into the water cube for swimming. Since day one our common complaint has been tired eyes, thanks to being up late every night, true Olympic devotees.
Of course we love Michael Phelps who two nights ago earned his eighth medal of these games. He certainly is an amazing human being and yes, we think he just may be part fish. But beyond him, so many others have us cheering them on, even those we’ve never heard of before. I was in tears watching the spotlight on Kirstie Coventry of Zimbabwe who upon winning her gold medal in 2004 quickly became a hero to her native people. There are the one hundred-thirty pound guys who lift more than twice there weight, and Shelly-Ann Fraser from Jamaica who ran the 100 meter in 10-point-something seconds and jumped around in a jubilant victory dance with a smile as big as her country and a mouth full of braces. In women’s gymnastics where despite being called women, the contestants are teenagers and body-wise closer to girls, there’s little Shawn Johnson whose Midwestern hometown made a butter sculpture out of her and the elegant Nastia Liukin who wasn’t afraid to cry when she won her gold. There are the NBA faces together in Beijing but representing their home countries and the American women’s rowing team that sang their hearts out when the National Anthem played to honor their gold. All of these athletes are human like us yes, but they are different. They are superhuman in their discipline and their abilities, carrying out unbelievable physical feats with power and grace all the while making it look effortless. Watching them, it’s easy to forget that the races in the pool and many on the track are sprints the entire way, that the balance beam is only four inches wide, and that in order to achieve such success these athletes live their sport.
It is with awe that I watch these magnificent individuals testing the limits of the human body, which are from what I have seen, greater than anything I have ever imagined. And it is with eyes (which many times over the past ten days have welled with tears) that I watch the genuine display of sportsmanship between competitors which holds these games together. Amidst war, violence and natural disasters, the Olympics are a symbol of peace and harmony and a reminder of the wonders of humanity. As I watch these games, cheering for my fellow Americans or others from places I know nothing of, not only am I thrilled– I’m proud, inspired and reminded that nothing is impossible.