Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic attitude

The Olympians have devoted themselves to training, deprivation, and discipline. Fewer sports make up the Winter Olympics than the Summer games, and they are more weather-dependent. How does an athlete train for snowboarding or cross-country skiing in the deserts, summers, or in tropical temperatures? They raise money to travel to the snow and ice or use wheels on their boards and skis. Or they become inventive in solutions that let them work out. After all their work, the athletes now hope there will be enough snow for their events.

The athletic temperament includes the will to win, the willingness to endure hardship, and overcoming embarrassment and failure when your best is not good enough. To create a proper field of competition, there must be more losers than winners. I watched Wust from the Netherlands glide away from a 3000m rival in the speed skating trials, blade crossing blade, a minimum of wasted motion, and then his shoulders started to sway in fatigue as he dropped behind. German Anschutz pulled away to cross the finish line first… just before the next competitors began to circle around their warm-ups. Each athlete focused in a narrow band of concentration. Their moment. Years of training. Early morning work outs. One chance to get through the initial heat to the semi-finals, or a few seconds in the spotlight before elimination.

Years later, the “also-rans” are able to boast, “I was an Olympian for Canada! (or Russia, or Croatia.)” An aquaintance rowed for the USA in the 80s. She identifies herself as an Olympian and competes locally in various water events. She tries to remain worthy of that honor. “Winning isn’t everything. Being there counts, too,” she says.

What do we need to show up for today? How hard do we have to work, and what might it cost us while we set the course for the rest of our journey?

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