Lessons from the Olympic Games
This week in London, the USA Women's gymnastics team (comprised of five teenagers, two competing injured) won the Team Gold. This is an achievement only secured once before for the United States, in 1996, by a group of women dubbed the "Magnificent Seven."
I have been a gymnastics fan since I was a little girl, before I broke my arm so badly I had to have surgery and three pins and never could do a pull up or push up or cartwheel again, and before I grew to my full height of 5'11" (yes, almost 6 feet).
Obviously with my height alone, a trip to the Olympics to compete in gymnastics was not in my future, but when I was a little girl, I didn't know that. I just knew about a little girl named Nadia who had won SEVEN perfect 10.0s in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
I knew about Nadia and I knew about Mary Lou Retton, and my neighbor and I would spend hours practicing our "gymnastics" (really, just a very poor impersonation, as I could not flip with my post-fractured arm). I was always Nadia. She was always Mary Lou.
Schools would come to our school on their gymnastics tours and put on stunning performances. Afterward, filled with adrenaline, I would join the other inspired kids on the mat and invariably twist an ankle or hurt myself in some way.
I didn't know that I would grow to be far, far too tall to be an Olympic gymnast.
I didn't know that my joints were hypermobile, thus all the sprained ankles.
I didn't know that I would develop Ankylosing Spondylitis and all the landings and tricks done in gymnastics wouldn't work for my body.
I just knew I was inspired.
Watching the Olympic Games this summer, I haven't felt the urge to try a somersault or a cartwheel. I haven't twisted an ankle trying to be the next Nadia Comaneci. But I have been more inspired than ever.
Amazing themes play out in the Olympic Games. Themes like hard work, preparation, sacrifice, determination, courage, excellence, goal-setting, strength, overcoming obstacles, working as a team, doing your best, winning and losing graciously, and getting back up and finishing when you fall.
Watching the Fab Five (USA's women's gymnastics team), I have been inspired by all five team members.
McKayla Maroney is one of the world's best vaulters. She was chosen for the team specifically for her vault ability, and competed for Team USA only in the vault event. Tuesday she vaulted impeccably, with a broken toe, earning a near perfect score. Thanks McKayla, for demonstrating mind over matter. You competed with pain and injury, and gave it your all. You smiled and cheered on your teammates with heart and sincerity. Thanks also for reminding me that even if you can't do it all, you can do what you do with excellence!
As defending world champion, Jordyn Wieber went to London with perhaps more pressure on her and more expectations than the other four girls on the team. Competing with a bruised foot, Jordyn, like McKayla, gave it her all. And when Jordyn lost her chance to compete for the individual All-Around title, she cried it out and then promptly dried her eyes and set her sights on what still mattered: leading her team in the competition for the team medal. She did her job fabulously, sticking her vault and performing with excellence. Jordyn reminds me that sometimes as an individual, life doesn't go the way we plan, but we get up and continue to work for the good of those around us.
I've been reminded that being a team means working together, and supporting each other. Being a team means fighting for the common good, and sticking together.
What I love about the Olympics is the reminder that we all have goals and dreams and battles, and athletes or not, we can strive for excellence, even with limitations, and we can use character through the defeats, falls, and victories.
Thank you, Olympians, for inspiring us!