Like millions of people across the globe, I have been glued in front of my television watching the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. I can’t look away for even a second for fear that I will miss something truly outstanding. I have screamed at my television with absolute joy and excitement. My heart has felt broken when I have witnessed injuries and accidents. And as the national anthem has played for the gold medal winner, I have felt “goose bumps” on my arms and a few tears in the corners of my eyes.
It’s ONLY been 5 days!
I watched with excitement and awe as the opening ceremonies were broadcast. My eyes were wide open and my jaw dropped with amazement. As though I were a child, I watched the array of dizzying colors, flashes of light, brilliant flair and dazzling fireworks in complete wonder and awe! Wow! That is all I can really say…just Wow!
And then, no sooner had the opening ceremonies ended, the games began in earnest. I have been a lifelong sports fan and participant. I know what it means to be competitive as I have also been a fierce competitor. However, I know there is absolutely no way I can even come close to comparing myself with these outstanding competitors. Each one defies all the rules of human nature. They push their bodies to a physical point that none of us can even begin to understand.
There is so much more than just being competitive.
In only 5 days of competition, I have learned so much. Yes, I have learned more about each sport and competitor. I have learned specifics about each team and their respective countries. And most definitely, I have heard many stories of the struggles and sacrifices each of the competitors have made to be able to compete with the very best in the world. But, there is so much more I have learned. There is so much more than just being the fastest, the strongest, the most daring, the biggest and even being a medal winner.
The top 4 values I have learned from the olympics (so far)
1. Being humble – As a competitor myself, sometimes it is really hard to stay humble. I’m not one to run around “tooting my own horn.” So, I’m really not referring to something said or stated. I’m referring more to the act of showing humility. I have heard many people refer to it as “winning gracefully.” Most of the olympic athletes I have seen during the competitions show an utmost amount of humility. They are quick to contribute their success to coaches, team members, family and others. And there are many who do this quietly, without provoking another competitor or drawing a lot of attention to themselves.
A great example is the duo of USA olympic athletes, Johnson and Boudia competing in the synchronized 10m platform diving event. They earned a silver medal in the event. After their win, video was shown of their reaction upon realizing how well they had placed in the event. (If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here)
2. Sportsmanship – There is so much more to sportsmanship than just shaking your competitor’s hand or giving them a high five. In my opinion, to demonstrate true sportsmanship is to actually become a sportsman. This is about living as that person. It means applying this value whether you win or lose. It means congratulating the other person or team, even if they spanked you. It involves an emotional part. It means feeling and truly understanding the emotions of others whether they win or you win.
A great example from the last 5 days is that of Michael Phelps competing against South African Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly event. After what many would consider a sign of taunting and negative gesturing, the South African swimmer finished the race without a medal at all. However, Chad was one of the very first men to congratulate Phelps when reaching out to him.
3. Demonstrating Teamwork – I think this word is used far too often in reference to team competitions. I believe that many use it in a context which isn’t entirely accurate. Just because a group of people are together in a “team,” this does not automatically imply they are demonstrating teamwork. In my opinion, this means doing anything and everything for another in achieving one common goal. If this means you have to sit out and watch your teammates play, then that is what you have to do. It is about contribution, sacrifice, cohesion, and togetherness. This is about establishing a bond together that is unbreakable.
As I watched the USA Women’s gymnastics team compete last night, I saw what has to be the greatest demonstration of teamwork I have ever seen. Those girls cheered, screamed, yelled, jumped up and down, and even cried together! And after they had won the gold medal, they spoke of nothing but encouragement, strength, and bonding as one. They each talked about their willingness and drive to work together towards earning their gold medal.
4. Strength & Courage – If you’ve played or competed in any sports event at all, then you probably have a fairly good understand of what it means to have courage and strength. However, never before have I truly understood and felt what these two terms really mean until the 2016 Rio olympics. I think of courage as being brave and unafraid. I think of strength as being physical and mental. But, my somewhat scanty and vague descriptions really don’t apply to these olympic games! I am referring to a very unique and special group of athletes.
Let’s talk about the first ever Olympic Refugee team. First off, I can’t even comprehend or begin to understand what these individuals have gone through. I have lived a fairly sheltered life. I have always had a roof over my head, transportation, food and water, an income and more than my share of amenities. I have been blessed in so many ways and so many times in my life thus far. What these individual athletes have had to encounter, deal with and overcome is unbelievable. The refugee team is, in my opinion, the real heart and meaning of the olympic dream. If you’re not familiar with their story, please take the time to find out for yourself. They are each truly amazing!
There are many more days of competition.
I am looking forward to dozens of more hours spent glued in front of my television screen. I continue to marvel at the amazing stature, physique and determination of the olympic athletes. But for me, it’s more than just the competitive part of the games. There is so much more to be learned…and it’s only been 5 days so far.
What have you especially enjoyed or learned? I am genuinely interested. Please leave a remark in the comments below. Enjoy your olympic games!