It’s been a week since the Winter Olympics wrapped up in Sochi. It was a wonderful experience full of triumphs and heartbreak and amazing feats, and now that I’ve had a chance to reflect, I want to share four simple lessons of sport and life that were conveyed so beautifully at the Games.
1. You can compete for the Fun and Love of the sport.
It’s hard to imagine the pressure of an Olympic athlete, more so today than even when I competed because of things like social media, live practice broadcast, and sponsorships. Athletes often seem so intense and focused, and sometimes they’re even construed as elitist or standoffish. But that wasn’t the case with many of the athletes I met or watched in Sochi. Each of them, while trying to perform at their best, were so happy to be able to share their sport with the world. Athletes like Sugar Todd and Sarah Hendrickson who didn’t bring home medals, smiled and laughed and shared their love and joy of being a part of the competition.
2. The Olympic Spirit is Real.
At the biggest sporting event in the world with the dreams of a lifetime on the line, no one would fault an athlete or team for being focused on their own performance. But the Games were created out of the Corinthian spirit of taking part, and enjoying sport for its own sake. That sportsmanship and the Olympic spirit were on full display in Sochi when a Canadian ski coach came to the aid of a Russian cross-country skier, replacing his broken ski during the semi-finals of the men’s freestyle sprint so he could finish the race; and when Swiss skier Dario Cologna waited 28 minutes at the finish line after winning gold to congratulate each finisher, the last being Peru’s first-ever Winter Olympian Roberto Carcelen; and when the women snowboarders cheered and celebrated ever run of every athlete, hugging and congratulating ever attempted trick. Many events were all about celebrating the sport.
3. Getting back up is what sets you apart.
U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbott took a hard fall during his short program that left him in pain and dazed, but instead of giving up, he got back to his feet and finished the program with a strong performance. He finished what he started, for himself and for the fans of the sports. It’s a lesson we can all take to heart.
4. The “Moment” is for everyone who helped get you there.
They say it takes a village, and it does that and more to get a champion onto the Olympic podium. It’s hard work, dedication, and sacrifice by athlete, coach, and family. And sometimes an athlete’s family gives the most of all. So as medals were awarded and athletes thanked their moms or their husbands, wives, or children, know that they were sincere. They could not have done it alone. I know without the love and sacrifice of my family, those daily 4 a.m. trips to the pool, and giving up every weekend for a meet, I would’ve never become an Olympic Champion. One of my favorite moments of the Games was watching Noelle Pikus-Pace leap into the stands to kiss her husband and hug her kids, who’d been living on the road with her for the last year to make her dream possible.
As you go about your life, remember these lessons from Sochi. Use them as examples as you teach your kids to compete or challenge yourself in any discipline. When you work your hardest at something and don’t come out on top, know that it’s ok and continue to do your best simply for the love of it. Even though you’re caught up in taking care of yourself and your family, when you see someone struggling, stop and lend a hand because they’re working just as hard. When you think about giving up, persevere because finishing is worth something to you and those around you. And as you strive for achievement in your life, remember that it took more than you to get get yourself there and recognize those that helped you along the way.