An Olympic Sidenote

August 20, 2008 | No comments yet

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By: Dennis Bates

The Olympics: two weeks of sleep deprivation that comes once every four years. In some ways we can be happy it doesn’t come more often for just that reason. In spite of my personal pledge to ignore the spectacle this time, I find myself glued to the coverage every night like so many others around the world. It’s as addictive as hot buttered popcorn.


This time, however, I’m trying desperately to take something more than medal counts away from the nightly wrap ups. And something happened Monday night that I think is worth noting. It reminded me of something that happened to my own daughter years ago when she used to swim competitively in high school. Granted, the incident involving my own daughter was on a much lesser scale, but the lesson is no less important.


My daughter’s high school swim team battled its arch rival back and forth all night. The meet came down to the last two events: the 100 meter breast stroke and the 4×100 meter freestyle. My daughter swam in both events. She was an adequate free style swimmer, but the breast stroke was her specialty. If my daughter’s team was going to win, she had to take first place in the breast stroke, and then with little recovery time swim the last leg of her team’s B relay team and take no worse than third place.


Somehow she did both, beating the other team’s B team anchor swimmer by coming from behind and winning by a finger tip at the end. For those few moments she was the most celebrated swimmer in the pool and her teammates mobbed her. She received so much attention for her heroic swims that she told me she was actually embarrassed by it.


I remember telling her to enjoy every second of the attention and remember it because there may be a meet where she failed and came up short by the same margin, and she needed to remember how she won, so she could cope with the time she lost. Almost prophetically, that very thing happened in the next meet. My daughter told me on the way home that she remembered what I had told her just the week before and it really helped, even though she was unhappy she let her teammates down this time.


Last night in the women’s 110 meter hurdles, the favorite, an engaging young woman from Des Moines, Iowa, hit the second to last hurdle just as it appeared she would run away from the field for the gold medal. She stumbled and didn’t medal at all, let alone take home the gold as she had expected. She had cleared thousands of hurdles in practice after practice, but in the biggest track meet of her life, she stumbled. And just like that her dreams were shattered.


At the very moment she should have been running around draped in the American flag, the camera showed her leaning teary eyed in a hallway under the stands. She stood alone, trying to make sense of what had just happened, and more importantly why. It broke my heart. I wondered if anyone had ever told her to store up all the good things so she could cope with the devastating things like the one she had just gone through.


In the larger scheme of things, there are undoubtedly more devastating things that have happened to other people, but to this young woman who came from a troubled past, this was just another in a long line of things that didn’t seem to be fair. Hopefully, she knows that her Heavenly Father can help ease her pain. If she doesn’t, then I hope she becomes acquainted with Him, because He can and He will.


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