The Thrill of Achievement

I am utterly and completely engrossed in the Olympics right now. I was thrilled to discover that I can watch the events live on my computer and iPad during the day. Even though I watch most of the events I am interested in each day, I still try to turn on the coverage in the evening to see the condensed version, just to hear the commentary.

My favorite Olympic sports to watch are swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. When those are done, I will catch track and field.

So given that I watch very little television on a regular basis, what is it about the Olympics that captivates me?

I find success very appealing. In particular, I enjoy watching athletic success. No offense to those who are at the top of their games in the finance, business, or other arenas. Talented people who can push their bodies beyond what we think is possible is amazing to watch.

The Olympics coverage allows us to almost be there with them as they compete. As they win or lose. As they begin their athletic careers, continue them, or conclude them. Perhaps in comparison to “reality TV”, I prefer to see people who are “famous” because they are actually talented. They have taken a gift (mental and physical) and advanced it. Pushed it. Stretched it. Soared with it.

Some athletes are very interesting to follow for their personal stories. I feel invested in their competitions. I cry with them, and celebrate along with them as they reach this high point in their careers. My son was watching swimming with me yesterday, and he commented, “You know they can’t hear you, right, Mom?” I laughed, and told him that I cheered them on hoping it helped them in some little way. Maybe I could contribute something to their achievement, since I gave up any dreams of athletic competition long ago.

We as a nation have followed these athletes, soaking up their stories and feeling connected to them as Americans. I hope the wonderful stories they have shared with us pale in comparison to the parts of the story that they have kept for themselves. The secret dreams. The dashed hopes. The overwhelming desire to try for just one more medal. The thrill of beating their own personal best time. The contentment and satisfaction of being among the top in their field.

Congratulations to all of the Team USA Olympic athletes who are competing in London. I hope your personal stories will give you many happy memories for years to come.

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