I am not an Olympic athlete nor will I likely ever have an Olympic athlete in my family. Of course, there is always the chance that my hubby will decide to take up curling so I guess I can never say never.
Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen our heroes on a grand scale fall short of their best, fold under the pressure, the underdog win the gold, and we have also seen redemption that would make even the biggest skeptic believe in the impossible. Most of us will never understand the level of sacrifice that these athletes and their families have made in order to make it to this moment.
Everyone who watched Shaun White win the gold last week felt their heart beat just a little faster when he was standing at the top of the half-pipe. Most of America held its collective breath as he hurled himself into the air for each trick that was more impressive than the last. Then there was Mikaela Shiffrin who was going for 5 medals as she entered these Olympics. Throughout the course of these weeks we have seen a glimpse of the pressure that she is under and the subsequent anxiety that she is experiencing. We have heard about the vomiting and naps between runs, the 4th place finish when gold was expected, and the decision to pull out of the Downhill and Super G runs. It’s just skiing some people say, but it’s their job; it’s their entire life. And let’s not forget about that Canadian Ice dancing team of Virtue and Moir who not only won gold for the team event, but the pairs ice dancing. They made it look easy and they left us all wanting more. We watch their stories, see their families cheering on the sidelines, and for a few minutes we feel like we are part of it.
Many of you know that our middle daughter was a ski racer for 10 years of her life. This meant that ours was a ski-racing family. In those 10 years we had just a little taste of the hard work and sacrifice that these athletes and their families endure to make it to the Olympics.
Our daughter, like many of the athletes, has her own comeback story. She crashed in a Super G race just shy of her 13th birthday. She tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus. It was brutal. She handled it like a champ and her singular focus, even at 13, was to get back in the start gate. It felt unimaginable at the time, but you do what you have to do to make it back. Our job was to drive her to therapy for months trying not to think about that moment when she would put on those boots and skis and stand back at the top of the mountain. It’s what parents do to help their kids reach their dreams and find their purpose again.
Then the day comes after months and months of recovery and training that they ride the chairlift to the top and once again they are standing in the start gate. I can feel that emotion like it was yesterday. It feels like a jackhammer in your chest, a deep breath feels incomprehensible and there is a lump in your throat the size of a baseball. The months of recovery flash before your eyes as she begins her run. It feels like an eternity and yet it’s over before you know it. When she is safely down, you can feel nothing but overwhelming emotion. It’s like she has won the gold medal rather than just completing a run at the junior level.
So, when Lindsey Vonn stands in the start gate after years of coming back from injury you feel her emotion. When you see her putting on her knee brace you feel her pain, and when you see the tears of joy after making it down without crashing you feel her intense relief. So, imagine all of those months of recovery, training and sacrifice and actually winning the GOLD MEDAL at the Olympics? Imagine all of the emotions that they must feel in that moment.
The Olympics showcase the best of the best. If we are lucky we get a taste of their story. We fall in love with them, their families and we root for them. When they fall, we cry and when they win, we are on our feet cheering and maybe crying a little, too. If your favorite athlete doesn’t live up to the hype or they don’t act they way you expect them to act, give them a little grace. If they forget to turn their skis around for their sponsors or they forget they are holding their country’s flag, give them a little grace. If it looks like they are crying because they got a bronze instead of a gold, they might be, but they might also be crying because this journey is long and hard and you can’t always predict the overwhelming emotions that might overflow.
Thank you to all of the athletes for sharing their stories; for letting us catch a glimpse of who they are and for inspiring us all to maybe just be a little better than we were two weeks ago.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G