Distractions of Olympic Proportions

I love the Olympics. Not in a stay home from work and watch from morning till night kind of way, but I’ll happily give up my evenings for two solid weeks to watch gymnastics (or figure skating, depending on the time of year).

This morning I watched an interview on Facebook with the Magnificent Seven. I remember like it was yesterday…Shannon Miller, the most decorated U.S. gymnast…Kerry Strug, clinching the title on the vault, wrecked ankle and all. Before 1996 we had a powerhouse in Mary Lou Retton. Since then, I’ve held my breath while Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin worked their way across the balance beam.   I’m excited to watch Gabby Douglas compete again for gold.

I’ve always loved gymnastics. Maybe because I’m such a tall, gangly girl whose entire gymnastic repertoire was a back bend (you know…bending backwards to touch my hands to the ground with my belly button arched to the sky).

Gymnasts seemed to always be petite, but powerful. They seemed fragile but determined. Their strength always amazed me, both in the routines they performed as well as their ability to handle what must have been crazy amounts of pressure.

Certainly the same could be said for many Olympic sports. The sacrifices made by athletes to compete at the top-level of their sport. Having a goal and being in it, heart and soul, putting in the work and then enjoying the glory of reaching your dream and competing against all the other bests in the world. And if you came out the other side on the podium…what a powerful moment. I’ve spent many years living vicariously through our U.S. gymnasts, cheering their success and mourning their losses.

It’s almost time to sit in my living room and share their adventure again.

I don’t follow gymnastics enough to know the ladies on the team this year. I know only that Gabby will return along with Aly Raisman. But by the time the all-around champion is crowned, I’ll feel like I’ve known these women since they were babies. Great Olympic coverage has always let you into their lives and created a sense of family for me. These are “our” athletes. The best the United States has to offer. Our sons and daughters. In a world turned upside down, maybe more than ever, our Olympic athletes make me proud to be an American.

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