Like millions of people around the world, I’ve tuned into the Olympics over the last week (the only time I EVER watch TV).
I’m captivated by the amazing women (and men), who are competing in China. What we’re seeing now is the culmination of years of planning, training, and unbelievably hard work. From where I sit, every athlete, whether they end up with a medal or not, is a winner.
Each of them is the epitome of courage and determination. To me, they symbolise all that is good about competition. I’m awestruck by their skill, their vitality, their stunning physiques, their collective spirit and their individual stories.
More than we dare to dream
Being Canadian, I’ve taken special note of my countrywomen (and men), athletes who span in age from their mid-teens to their early 50s. They include swimmers, fencers, runners, equestrians, gymnasts, trap shooters and more. A friend’s daughter, Andreann Morin, is a member of the women’s eights rowing team.
I’m inspired by all of them. They are the best and brightest Canada has to offer. Many have set Canadian records in their events.
AND THEY ARE AT THE OLYMPICS. Wow!
That in itself is more than most of us even dare to dream, let alone realise. They should be SO proud of the fact that they are there, in Beijing, in the company of the most accomplished athletes in the world. Each of them is a superstar, a giant in her or his own right.
And yet, for some strange reason, many of the Canadian athletes are publicly apologetic about their performances – because they haven’t finished “in the medals.” Some have “missed out” on a bronze by one-tenth of second, or a centimeter to finish fourth.
Fourth IN THE WORLD. What an achievement! No need to apologise, no matter where you finish.
The Olympic ideal
There’s too much emphasis being placed on getting medals at this Olympics. Some of it is being fuelled by the way the media questions athletes and reports on events. This misplaced focus causes pain and anguish, when there should be joy and celebration.
I’ve had the privilege of working at two Olympic Games (Montreal, 1976; Calgary, 1988). I learned then that the Olympic ideal is grounded in excellence, courage, and the competitive spirit. To make the Olympic Games about winning medals tarnishes that ideal.
I’m proud of the entire team of Canadian Olympic athletes. And I personally salute all the athletes who are competing in Beijing, regardless of their nationalities or where they finish in competition – every single one deserves to be recognised and celebrated.
Living up to our potential
I also salute every athlete in the world: young, old, tall, short, female, male, white, black, red, yellow, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, able-bodied or physically challenged, whoever they are, whatever their sport of choice, wherever they compete, whether they come first, third, fifth, dead last, or anything in between.
Because it’s in competing that we win. The only losers are those who, given the opportunity, choose to stand on the sidelines and watch as life unfolds before them.
It’s in striving for excellence, and being the best that we can be, that we really live and achieve greatness. That’s what it means to be human.
Thank you Olympic athletes, for leading the way. No need for medals – you’re already worth your weight in gold.