Why I Love the Olympics: A Love Letter to Apolo Anton Ohno and Michael Phelps

Apolo Anton Ono olympic-sized crushI hate sports, I really do. Football is far too slow, baseball a bit boring and basketball – the pro-athletes there now are more celebrity than sportsmen (see: Shaq turned actor, Rodman turned…who knows).

But I love the Olympics. Summer and Winter, I’m an equal opportunity Olympian lover. This love is a fairly new one, only fully discovered in Beijing after experimenting in Salt Lake City, Sydney and Atlanta. What can I say? It takes me time to trust a new love.

Buy why? Why, why do I love the Olympics if I so detest regular sporting events? Is it the excitement of the various games? The exotic (ne Vancouver) locations? The dreaminess and seeming attainable-ness of Michael Phelps and Apolo Anton Ohno? The crazy X-Games-esque tricks of the Winter or the grace of Summer sports?

Nope. (Sorry Michael and Anton, you’re still my boys) In these games, I’ve come to realize it’s the amateur nature of the games and the big dreams; That is to say, most of these (mostly young) people are not technically ‘pro’ athletes. For the most part, these Olympians will complete their games, their Olympic careers, and grow up and do something else. Of course, that is not always the case – we do have Scott Hamilton and the other Stars on Ice. It’s not as sad as it might sound, to end your athletic career so early. For many of these athletes, just getting to the Olympics is the goal. Think of the hundreds upon hundreds of names we never hear or see on screen. They’re not contenders – but they are there, and that is the dream.

I have friends who continue to root for failing and losing pro-sports teams. Now, these athletes get paid thousands and millions of dollars to do a job – to play, entertain and win. If they don’t do these things, then aren’t they failing on the job? Why sill root for them? Why not fire them? We don’t have the same issue with the Olympians. This isn’t a job, it’s a passion and dream. Though not my personal dream to don 12 inch plus, razor sharp skates and risk cutting my hand off in speed skating, far be it from me to tell somebody else that it’s not worthwhile.

And I love the stories. Whether the Olympian is a kid – just 15 years old, or considered “old” for the sport – in their 30’s but still racing for an Olympic gold. These are real people, seemingly someone you could run into on the street. Maybe not the super stars who we hear about most, but the hundreds of other competitors! For me, there is something so insanely amazing and awe-inspiring about seeing someone with supposedly the same genetic make-up as myself doing extraordinary things. These people are determined, motivated, passionate. They are the true role models.

So I guess now when people ask me if I like or watch sports, I can truthfully (and happily) answer YES. Yes, I love the Olympics. Pure, unadulterated, satisfying and unconditional love. I don’t root for the winning team, I’m not disappointed when they lose. It’s not ‘Team USA or Bust.’ I’m proud of each and every one of those athletes, because they are doing something I could never do. Something brave, courageous, and for the most part, something they wont’ get paid for. All for love of their sport.

Already dreaming of Summer 2012…

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