By Julie Levy ~ Posted Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:09am
Like many people, I have been enjoying the Olympic Games. Although there are some sports that I find more interesting than others, I tune in for almost any competition or match-up.
With so much media attention on the medal winners and record setters, it is easy to overlook the other competitors who have each had their own long road to the Olympic Games. While watching the Opening Ceremonies, I am always moved by the countries who are able to send only a handful of athletes, most of whom will not place or have their names in any record books. I can't help but think how overwhelming it must feel to be 1 of a few representatives for the land that you love. Going to the Olympics is a reward for so many that have worked so hard and it is equally rewarding for their family, coaches and countrymen.
The Olympic Games offer innumerable lessons for children in terms of geography and history but there are many ethical lessons that can be learned as well. In a society that largely values being the best at any cost, it has been refreshing to see the camaraderie and support that so many athletes offer each other.
Example #1, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. The US gymnastics teammates are also each other's most fierce competition. They are roommates in the Olympic Village and cheered each other on from the sidelines during the women's all-around competition when they were battling each other for the gold. As their individual event competitions have continued, the support and positive attitudes as well.
Example #2, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. International swimmers refer to Michael Phelps as a "swimmer from the future" who has the physical prowess and ability to push himself to perform under pressure like no other. US swimming teammate Ryan Lochte is not only a great friend to Phelps out of the water, he is also one of his fiercest competitors. Phelps has said that knowing that Lochte is swimming next to him gives him the motivation to push himself harder. Lochte continually pushes himself to go for the gold, despite the record breaking Phelps being in the forefront.
While we are used to seeing sporting brawls, whether it is the NBA, MLB or between parents and coaches on the Little League field, it is refreshing to see so many athletes in Beijing truly personify the definition of Olympians. Not every athlete at these Olympic games (think Sweden's Ara Abrahamian) has the spirit of Lochte or Liukin, but it is definitely the individuals, their tenacity and sportsmanship that keeps me tuning in The Games.