I don’t usually watch much sports, but when I do, I make it the Olympics. There’s something so compelling about watching people come from all over the world to compete in a variety of sports, and to see the success, heart break, and story around each and every athlete.
Here are just some of the lessons I took away from the Olympic Games:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
American sprinter Manteo Mitchell discovered this when he was competing in the 4×400 meter preliminaries, and broke his left fibula. He was still able to keep going, so for him, there was really no choice in the matter: He finished the lap, and stayed on the sidelines to watch the Americans finish and qualify for the final.
The more successful you are, the more some people will hate you for it.
Ye Shiwen, a 16 year old swimmer from China, broke the world record in the women’s 400m individual medley. It wasn’t long before there were accusations hurled at her, accusing her of having taken drugs in order to achieve such results.
Part of the problem is that some 0ther swimmers have tested positive in the past, but nonetheless, one can also have the good grace to celebrate a hard-won victory, without immediately pointing accusatory fingers of blame.
Face adversity head-on.
Hamadou Djibo Issaka had only started learning how to row three months prior. He didn’t have the best form or shape for the challenge, so when he competed in the 2000m single sculls heat, he finished more than a minute behind his nearest competitor, and nearly two minutes behind the winner. In spite of this, he didn’t give up, and though he didn’t take home a medal, he still captured the hearts of the crowd with his unrelenting spirit.
Some people are better than you’ll ever be.
Sometimes, we just have to accept that no matter what we do, there’ll probably be someone else out there who’s better at it than we are. At the top stand legends like Michael Phelps, with a record of 22 Olympic medals, and Usain Bolt, a self-proclaimed living legend, and the greatest athlete of all time. They stand at the top of their fields, and their records will probably be unmatched for some time to come.
In every field, there is someone at the top, and someone better at it than you. Instead of despairing, we need to recognize success in our own fields and domains of influence, and savour each achievement on its own merits.
What are your thoughts?
Though I deeply admire the spirit of the Olympic athletes (if not so much the commercialism surrounding the games, themselves), the games also remind me of just how unequal and unfair our world can be. Some people are born gifted; others are born with imperfections or defects. Some people are born intelligent, others, not so much. Some are born into good families, and some aren’t. Some are born in the rich developed world. Many others are not, and don’t have the same chance to develop their talents. Heck, even in the games, some try so hard, and just get unlucky or injured at the worst possible moment.
Is it really right or fair to judge people based on their physical and mental accomplishments, or lack thereof? Nobody can control the body and mind they were born with. It’s unfair to blame a person with depression for being depressed, or a person with a physical or mental defect for having that defect, and maybe it’s also unfair to praise someone for being naturally gifted. After all, they also didn’t get to control that, but it’s a good thing that the dice came up 7s for them!
However, it’s possible to take this chain of thought too far and argue that nobody is ever responsible for anything, and I don’t want to go that far. I don’t doubt that every Olympic athlete has worked very hard to get to where they are, and we can learn much from them.
One element that I really admire about the games is that it also shows how some people are able to surpass these limitations and shine as an example for the rest of us. Clara Hughes, a Canadian cyclist and skater, has not only turned her own life around and gone on to win several medals, but she’s also gone on to help others and give back at the same time.
I look forward to the day when the world is a little bit more equal, and nobody has to suffer a penalty because of where they were born, the family that they were born into, or even because of the genes that they were born with. It should never be about bringing others down; instead, it should be about raising everyone up, so that we can all have the same opportunities of those whom we most admire.