Put It All On The Line – Olympic Memories

The 27th Olympic Summer Games officially opens tomorrow night.  That’s almost assuredly going to be a star-studded, grand affair in the competition to see if the host nation, England, can out-celebrate the athletes.

While that’s the official Opening Ceremony, many athletes have already started competing.  For instance, the United States Women’s National [Soccer] Team (USWNT) already beat France 4-2 in their Olympic opener.  I’m hoping they can restart the championship era for US women’s soccer that brought about the best womens professional soccer league in the world.  Let’s bring home the gold, ladies.  We’re behind you.

Thinking back on their gold medals, brings other great summer games olympians, some controversial, most beloved.  [I may be a bit biased so most of these names will be Americans.] Track & Field giants like Jesse Owens, Michael Johnson (and his gold shoes), Bruce JennerCarl Lewis, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos,  diver Greg Louganis, gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, and the “Dream Team” of 1992.

One of the most amazing stories still going is that of Michael Phelps.  Over the past two Summer Games, he has totaled 16 medals, 14 of them gold, and 8 of those coming in the 2008 games, where he won every event in which he competed.  One, by just one one-hundredth of a second.  A win used in one of my favorite Visa ads.  Let’s see if he can increase that gold medal count in London.  Swim hard, Michael!

Now, to my favorite Olympic moment ever.  Maybe it’s because I was sitting on my couch, watching the live broadcast of the women’s gymnastics team all-around competition when it happened, but probably not.  Maybe it was the suspense because the first Team All-around gold for the US Women came down to one last vault…that’s part of it.  Watch the clip, then I’ll tell you the full reason.

What made this moment so special?  Kerri Strug, known really only to those in the gymnastics world and maybe folks who follow Olympic gymnastics, with the pressure of the gold medal riding on her vault, injured her foot in the first vault.  She could have quit there and most people wouldn’t have given her grief.  She had just suffered a legitimate injury.  But Kerri Strug showed us what makes a true champion…it wasn’t that she landed the gold-winning vault on her second vault.  It was that she fought through the pain, sprinted down the mat, potentially doing more damage to herself, and did her second vault.  She put it all on the line!  She showed the heart of a lion.  I had tears in my eyes as she stuck the landing, picking her injured foot up while raising her arms, then collapsing to the mat.  Awesome!!

I could ramble on for another paragraph or so about why that moment was so special, but this clip from Vision Quest sums it up very succinctly.
To all the olympians out there, not just the Americans, whatever your sport, I wish you good luck.  This may be your only “six minutes” so put it all on the line.  You’ve worked hard to get where you are and we’re celebrating you, even as we cheer for your competitors.

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