Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics

I don’t think you can be an athlete and not be in awe of the Olympics. As a kid I worked the swimming Olympic trials before the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta and had a chance to meet many of the superstars of that era. At that point I was just starting to leave swimming for Ultimate Frisbee, but I was still swimming between 15-20 hours a week. The energy of the Centennial Sportsplex was amazing, and I has been training the past 4 years for my own shot at the Olympic trials, but found a greater love in Ultimate Frisbee.

Two years later in 1998 I found myself playing for the United States Junior National Ultimate Frisbee team in the World Flying Disc Federation World Championships. I was one of 20 other junior athletes selected from across the US to represent the US at the World Championships in Minneapolis, MN. Two years before it was in Sweden and two years later it would be in Germany.

My attitude toward the Olympics is totally different as a result of this experience. Wearing red, white, and blue jerseys and representing “Team USA” was different from any other sporting event I had ever entered. It was bigger than your HS, State, or even nationals - this was WORLD competition and the energy was totally different. The effort of every athlete was bigger and better than anything I had ever experienced. We went undefeated over a week and a half of play and earned gold medals for our efforts. Receiving a gold medal for the USA in the medal ceremony was something I will never forget.

Watching Michael Phelps the past two nights on TV has been a powerful experience. It brings back memories of endless mornings and afternoons in the pool with the Olympic trials and Olympics as the carrot. I also think about what it meant to represent the USA on a national stage and compete against athletes from around the world. As much as Phelps’s genetic and physical gifts contribute to his success it is clear that his attitude and work ethic are just as much if not a bigger part of his achievements. I woke up earlier than usual this morning for my AM swim workout. It was awful to wake up early after very little rest the night before, but how can you not be inspired by the Olympics?

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