“No man has the right be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”
I’m a sucker for inspirational stories – and especially those that helps me get my butt to the gym. It probably explains why I love the Olympics so much. For two weeks, every four years, I’m glued to my tv watching and emotionally involved with sports I won’t pay attention to for another four years.
But when I think about it it’s not the sport or event itself I was wrapped up with, it’s the people who who competed. That’s what makes the Olympics so special. I watched athletes lay out every part of their soul for the sake of competition. The clear majority will not walk away rich no matter if they won gold or not. That’s not why they competed. That’s not why they dedicated their lives and made incredible sacrifices for years to compete for something that only lasts for a blip in a lifetime. They competed for pride. They competed for glory. They competed in the name of their nation.
We saw it time and time again as athletes teared up as they stood atop the podium as their national anthem played. Michael Phelps has stood on highest part of the podium 23 times, and the emotion was clear on his face for each one of those. I watched Andy Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, professional tennis players with distinguished careers, break down upon victory in a way I never saw before. These are people who had already achieved great success in their careers, and yet they were still overcome with emotion by the moment.
“No attempt of curing the body should be made without curing the soul”
Some will be remembered forever and most will not. But that doesn’t matter either, because regardless of their success or failure on the field or on the track, what those athletes gave us for two weeks was inspiring. For 14 days we had the chance to witness the best of the human spirit. How could anyone watch distance runners Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand and Abbey d’Agosino from the U.S. after their tumble on the track and not feel positive about the human race? Hamblin goes down during a 5,000m heat, d’Agnostino falls over her and instead of just blowing by her she checks to see if Hamblin is okay and encourages her to continue. But it’s d’Agnostino who has suffered the injury and struggles. Now Hamblin is the one doing the encouraging. d’Agnostino somehow crosses the finish line and waiting for her is Hamblin, who stays by her side until officials can push d’Agnostino off the track in a wheelchair. It was the most memorable moment of this year’s Olympics in my opinion, and I could care less where they finished in the standings. I watched two people care more about each other than who won or lost a race.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
So we should use these past two weeks as fuel for our own pursuits. Too tired to workout? Think of d’Agnostino. Struggling with your diet? Think of the dedication displayed by Phelps or Usain Bolt in pursuit of their own accomplishments. Can’t find time to hit the gym? Think of Simone Biles and the time she put in to earn four golds and a bronze.
This is what I choose to remember from this year’s games. Not the Ryan Lochte’s or the Hope Solo’s. I won’t even remember the events themselves in the weeks to come, but I will never forget the spirit and dedication displayed by many of the individuals who participated.