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Sports for All: All Are Winners at Olympics

  • By Chuck Lyons

   The 2016 Summer Olympics start with the opening ceremonies on Aug. 5, 2016. KNBC TV is broadcasting hundreds of  hours of coverage on broadcast TV, cable TV and the internet.

   USA Olympics 1980 Hockey Coach Herb Brooks (1936-2003)  made a  great comment in the movie Miracle on Ice, they (the players)  have sacrificed so much of themselves for an unknown. He meant they are no guarantees for Olympics medals regardless of how good you are. 

  Look at Lolo Jones, the gold medal favorite in the hurdles in track and field, who clipped a hurdle and saw the Olympics gold medal disappear before her eyes as she fell and sat on the track and looked ahead to see all her hard work that at that point stopped when she fell on the way to her goal of achieving an Olympics gold medal.

  Olympics are actually about the journey, an athlete's life journey. Especially when you train for four years, compete, and then have to wait another four years before the next Olympics. There will be approximately 10,000 athletes competing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In many events the athlete may not advance past the first round of competition. That's not cruel, it's a landmark for most of them.  Being able to represent your country is one of the biggest thrills. Even American Michael Phelps, who has won more swimming medals than probably even a few small countries, said in an interview this week that he has his headphones off this time and is enjoying representing USA at these games, probably his last competitive Olympics as he will most likely retire from swimming after these Olympics.

  The Olympics are like daily life, what effort we make is what experiences we have. For many athletes simply being able to compete is their victory. There is a small group of athletes from countries that don't have an Olympics team program because of lack of money or political or other reasons and they asked and get to compete in "Rio." That is a great accomplishment for the athletes and their coaches.

  These athletes remind of observing high school athletes from varsity, junior varsity, frosh soph or freshmen teams who proudly wear the team uniform, regardless of the success shown on the scoreboard. Some of life's great memories in sports are at the beginning when an athlete makes some of their first steps in learning how to throw a pass, clear a new heighth, make a basket or something else to help their team that they look forward to telling their parents about when they get picked up after practice.

  Sometimes the great memories are the journey... helping a teammate who just doesn't understand something in the classroom or in sport and feeling good about helping another human being. In fact, National Federation of High Schools has changed their rules so now that if emergency personnel are not at the specific location of an emergency, an athlete who helps another athlete in distress towards the finish line will not be disqualfiied from the event.  There are few stories over recent years, especially in cross country (distance running), where one runner has helped another in distress towards the finish line, usually having no winning team result for their runner. In fact, one runner did that and his team lost the team championship at regionals or state championships and their coach did what coaches should do, congratulate the runner for their life victory of helping a competitor. Unfortunately some coaches are about win at all cost and others need to remind them the journey, as we strive to win, is so much more important.

  One local high school team has a saying, "Treating people with respect and your good legacy are more important than any scoreboard." Interesting the coach said it seems sometimes things go your way and the team does have a lot of success on the scoreboard.

  While the focus of TV coverage of the Olympics is usually about the medal winning performances, don't you stay up and keep watching all these hours of coverage because you really like the feature stories of athletes and their challenges just to get to the games and they are as important or more important than the gold medal performances?

  USA Olympics 1996 gymnast Kerri Strug hurt herself on the first of two jumps in the vault with the team gold medal depending upon the outcome. Somehow she managed to flex her ankle and get one more jump that she did well enough to help team USA win gold. Everyone would probably agree although winning the gold was great, the courage, her willpower, loyalty to her teammates to even do the jump is aways remembered in sports history.

  The 1980 USA Hockey team, given a chance at maybe a sixth place finish at the Winter Olympics on home soil in Lake Placid, New York, worked together for an unknown and came through with the greatest upset win in sports history, a 4-3 shocker with our college players upsetting basically a professional team from then USSR (Soviet Union), which had beaten USA 10-3 just a week earlier in a pre-Olympics game.

  More importantly to many, it brought great pride to the American people who were dealing with an economically depressed country and USA hostages overseas, and the USA hockey team transformed a bleak outlook at that time into a whole country banding together waving the USA flag together regardless of race, religion or anything else. In the movie, Coach Brooks said he often got asked what for him was the best moment of the games, defeating the Russians? He said it was the medal ceremony. These players, average age 22, had done so much for our country to cheer it up with their amazing work ethic and belief in each other and their great performances game after game against superior opponents, emphasizing they had brought back for Americans not only the thought to dream, but once again, to believe (in teamwork, loyalty, integrity, work ethic, sacrifice, helping others). I see the same in working or going out to a local sporting event, whether youth or high school. Players and coaches do cherish wearing the team uniform every time.

  So, the next time you can make time, go to a local youth or high school sporting event and cheer for the home team, respecting both teams, and you'll not only support them, you"ll feel with your cheering you are part of the team. In the next days during the Summer Olympics from Rio we all if we really think about it are cheering for every athlete to have their own success as part of their journey. We relate to them just like we do to our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, customers, teammates and others every day!

  Keep enjoying sports, keep fit and cheer for your local sports teams.



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