For the love of the sport

August 11, 2012

I am not an Olympic athlete. This may come as a surprise, but no, I’ve never competed in the games. I’m beginning to think I never will.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Olympics. So much pressure on so many very young people. So many lives rewritten around a child’s potential. So much money, time, miles in the car driving Little Prodigy to lessons and meets on the miniscule chance that the kid would end up an Olympian.

And yet…there they are. The best of the best. You can see the fear, determination, hope on those young faces. The shock when things don’t go well. The heartbreak of a 16- or 20-year-old who doesn’t live up to the hype. The joy, and sometimes shock, when they do. “The blessings rain down on me,” said Gabby Douglas, the first black gymnast to win gold in the all-around, the girl who fell from the balance beam and hung on.

If I were the coach or mother of an Olympian, I don’t know what I’d say. You’re here for good reason, maybe. Or, Do your best, sweetheart, and you can’t lose, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Greg Lougainis said in an recent Esquire feature that he told himself as he climbed the ladder to the high dive to what would be a gold-medal dive, “My mom will love me no matter what I do out there.”

Good job, Mrs. L.

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