Just a few weeks ago the entire world was immersed in the events happening at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Each evening families around the globe turned on their televisions and watched athletes compete to be the best in their sport. Years and years of training, dedication and focus were put to the test in a few minutes – sometimes even just seconds – of competition.
Having attended two previous Winter Olympics myself, once as a spectator and once as a student reporter, I have come to love these 17 days of nations coming together to share in the spirit of competition. However, what I find to be even more compelling than the sports and medals are the athletes and their stories. They are stories of beating the odds. Stories of overcoming huge obstacles. Stories of sheer determination and will.
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. -The Olympic Creed
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
In Sochi we saw Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, a Norwegian biathlon competitor who showed us that age is irrelevant when it comes to achieving your dreams. At 40 years old he earned his 13th Olympic title and is now the most decorated Winter Olympian, ever.
Justin Wadsworth, the Canadian cross-country ski coach, exemplified true kindness and camaraderie. When a competitor from another country stumbled and broke a ski, Justin rushed to the struggling skier and not only offered him a spare ski, but snapped him into it himself! In a world that tells us we need to get ahead of everyone else, Wadsworth quietly reminded us that it is more important to lift others up.
Then there was Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, one of the greatest skaters of all time. In the past two years, he endured two spinal surgeries and yet still walked away from Sochi with a gold medal. Evgeni taught us that sometimes roadblocks and pain are inevitable, but we don’t have to let those things stop us forever.
Canadian freestyle skiing gold medalist Alex Bilodeau didn’t win his event for just himself – he won for his older brother and biggest fan, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy. In an interview for NBC, Alex said that his brother’s determination to live life to the fullest every day is what inspires him to pursue his dreams. Thanks, Alex, for reminding us that the most meaningful things are done with and for the ones we love.
Thanks, Alex, for reminding us that the most meaningful things are done with and for the ones we love.”
Lastly, Jeremy Abbott, the figure skater who literally showed the world what resilience is. On his very first jump in the short program, he took a hard fall onto his ribs and crashed into the rink wall. At first he laid on the ice, cringing in agony, seemingly the end of his program. Yet he got up, started skating again and finished his program even though his chances of medaling were dashed. Jeremy showed us that when we fall down, we have a choice – to stay down or to get back up.
So here’s to always getting back up. You may not be an athlete. You may have never strapped on a ski or laced up a skate in your life. But you do have your own dreams and your own obstacles to overcome. Let’s take these stories of Sochi to heart and remember what these athletes have taught us about perseverance, determination, strength, and love. Keep on going, even on the difficult days. Keep loving deeply and living fully because the world needs more stories like these.
Sochi is in the past. Now, it’s your turn.
Image of Alex Bilodeau via Andy Wong – The Associated Press