The following is a rerun of a blog post I wrote during the 2006 Olympics in Torino.
:060216: My captors want me to choose a favorite event. I can't do it. I love them all. It doesn't matter which event is happening, I love to watch. I can say that some of my least favorite are the team sports. I think this is because of the elimination process. If the two best teams in the world are matched against each other early on, one team gets the chance to try for gold, and the other can't get any medal at all. It just doesn’t seem fair.
At the start of each event, I always find myself rooting for the US. Every two years, for two weeks, I am very patriotic. I enjoy the victories of athletes from my country. I've never met these people, I've never participated in their sport of choice, but their victories are my victories. There is something inspiring about belonging to something that is the best in the world. It feels good to root for the best in the world.
So, although I like to root for Americans, I don't really like to root for Americans who are not the best in the world. I much prefer to root for the best in the world. Doesn't matter what country they come from, if they are medal-bound, I'll whisper my go-go-gos for them, too. I can appreciate the beauty of a sport well done, even if I know nothing about the sport. Yes, I'll readily admit that I am a fair-weather fan.
I'm also a sucker for a good underdog story. A shoddy upbringing, a terrible injury, multiple past Olympic dreams dashed, even a bad pre-competition practice will get me rooting. Speaking of bad pre-competition practices, I am of course rooting for the American, Lindsay Kildow who totally bit it on the downhill during practice, enough to land her in the hospital overnight with deep muscle bruises, and she's skiing now despite the pain. I'm also rooting for the French skier, Carole Montillet-Carles who crashed on the same run, sustaining rib, back and facial injuries. Her face is so bruised and swollen she can barely fit into her helmet.
The element of danger in so many events grips me with fascination. The athletes travel at such incredible speeds in unforgiving environments. You don't realize just how fast they are going until they fall, and you see how high they bounce. How did they get to the level where they can handle those extremes? Then it dawns on me that they start out small. Very small. They have worked for years and years to get to where they are. I not only cannot fathom working so hard on something to get so good at it, I also cannot fathom spending so much of my life focused on a single pursuit. One sport. One single idea. Every moment of your free time since you were very small.
It is because of this that I wonder what goes on in the minds of medalists on the podium. Some grin stupidly, and can't really believe that they are there. Some weep with the release that comes from years of pressure coming to fruition. Probably none of them are thinking yet, "Ok, what now?" Now that they have done what they set out to do, what they have spent every moment of their free time doing for as long as they can remember, what do they do now? These athletes are not very old. The youngest of them will set their sights four years into the future and prepare for the next Olympic games, or other competitions. Some will become commentators for their particular sport. I guess the rest will get a job.
All in all, I am a fan of sport, of friendly competition, of the top dog and the underdog, of the fastest race and of the fairest race, of the home team, of the falls that are agonizing out of pain or out of broken dreams, of giving it your all, even when you know with absolute certainty that you will not win the medal. And yes, I’m absolutely and unashamedly a fan of the "Life Takes Visa" commercials.