Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making my peace with the Olympics

Somewhere in my late teens I started to really hate the Olympics. I know what you're thinking. Who can hate they Olympics? Its like hating Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Well, back when those two were a big part of my life, I used to love the Olympics. I had the Dorothy Hammill haircut even though I hadn't been born yet when she was in the Olympics. I found a book about her at the library and decided she was my idol- in all things including hair style. I would watch figure skating in awe of the beautiful, sparkly outfits. I used to think it was so romantic when the men lifted the women in pairs skating. I used to go out on the frozen pond and imagine- no, I didn't imagine, I was fully convinced- that I was just as graceful as the girls I saw on tv as I scuffed along in my little training skates with two blades per foot. When it came time for the summer Olympics, you can be certain that I ran around our little living room jumping and twirling and log rolling. I can still remember going to a birthday party at a gymnastics place and thinking that I had really arrived at the places where dreams came true and Olympic stars were born! Maybe, just maybe, an Olympic trainer would see me and my artful leap into a pit of dirty foam squares in a hand-me-down, too small bodysuit and decide that she must take me on and give me free lessons because talent like mine was just too precious to waste!

By high school, my formal athletic experiences were comprised of a parks and recreation ballet class, baton twirling class and self-abbreviated season of softball. I had decided that I hated all things sports related. I hated sports, those who played them, and the white hats they wore. Of course, there was underlying resentment because I had never had the lesson or opportunity to excel at sports, but only years of maturity and therapy would make me realize that- at 16 its much easier to embrace your inner Courtney Love, pile on another flannel shirt and glower at the "jocks." When I would catch glimpses of the Olympics, it seemed like all of the athletes participating were now YOUNGER than me. It felt like a reminder that my chances at Olympic victory, or just even learning a sport, had come and gone! Stick a fork in me, I was done! Thus my hatred of all things Olympic and athletic was born.

Something has changed for me in these last two Olympics. First, my husband liked the Olympics and I could only ignore them so much while they were on in my living room. I also changed. I had discovered the gym and realized that I actually could control what my body was doing. The Olympics also seemed to be different, or maybe I was just noticing other things. Dana Torres was 41 and kicking ass in the 2008 Summer Olympics! There were plenty of teenie-boppers running around but here was Dana Torres, a full decade older than me, with an amazing body and doing really well. I also learned to appreciate what the Olympics do for people. There is so much negativity in the adult world. We go to work, people are negative, they complain. I think people really just need something in common to talk to people about but for some reason this becomes complaints! We complain about our boss, the weather, the traffic, the boss, facing the traffic in the weather... The Olympics and sports give us something good to focus on, something positive. I think we crave this so much that we embrace the Olympics. Its hopeful and positive and bright and colorful!

This year, in the winter Olympics, I have found true inspiration! Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong from Ghana, the "Snow Leopard" is the first Ghanaian representative in the sport of skiing. This guy didn't even see snow until he was in his twenties!! Now, at 33 he is in the Olympics wearing a FABULOUS leopard-print skiing outfit. Good for this guy!!! There was nothing- not age, not money, not situation, not social class, not geography- nothing that kept him back from doing what he wanted to do!! What a feeling that must be for him when he stands at the top of the mountain in Vancouver, remembering skiing in Iran and Turkey. What a feeling as he thinks about the kids he is trying to teach to ski on grass skis!

This year, I tried skiing for the first time since I was 12 (when I had crashed into a fence and decided I HATED it!). I was terrified and started out the day feet in the air and crying. But I persevered. I took a lesson. I went very slowly. I stopped a million times to adjust my dollar store ski socks. I did it. I conquered that bunny slope. The bigger slope- well maybe I had to walk down that mountain with gloves on my feet and boots in my hands- but i mastered that bunny slope!!! What an amazing feeling. After years of "I can't" I finally realized that "I could"!!! Yes- you can teach an old dog new tricks!!

So now, when I watch the Olympics, I am inspired by what these people accomplished and I think about what I might accomplish. I feel like I can share in the positive energy with my fellow Americans! Instead of resenting the athletes, I look to them for inspiration- especially the ones who are my age! As for me- Ms. Becky has decided that instead of lamenting the years I have wasted not being able to practice my triple toe loop- I am going to start taking figure skating lessons! Hey- you never know, you may see me in 2014!!!!

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