I was 13 when I first became enthralled in the spectacular world of the Summer Olympics. It was 1976 when Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. She the first female gymnast in the world to score a perfect score of 10 in a gymnastic event.
This 14 year-old heroine and role model suddenly made all things seem possible. She became an icon for many young women to do better, be better: “If she can do it, so can I.”
And through the years, I found myself rooting not only for my country’s success in the Olympics, but also cheering on the underdogs, who miraculously came back after a crushing blow in the first round of competition.
I watched as Cedar Rapids native Kent Ferguson competed on the U.S. diving team in the 1992 games, finishing in fifth place in the Men’s Springboard competition.
Kent and I met in elementary school and went through junior high and high school together. His life was devoted to swimming and now it’s easy to see why. His dedication was apparent as he became an icon for Iowa athletes, proving that you can do anything you want to do; it just depends on how much you want it.
Though I don’t watch a lot of television, I usually make it a point very year to catch some of the highlights of the Summer Games, and certainly follow them through other means.
This year’s competition in London feels a little different than in previous years. New blood is creeping in and the countries of the world are showing what they are really made of. The stakes seem to be higher.
It’s more exciting, somehow.
I was a little shocked that Michael Phelps finished fourth and didn’t even make the podium in the 400 IM July 28. With 16 medals to his credit, Phelps has indicated that this will be his last trip to the Olympics. (Phelps did go on to win more gold medals and set a record.)
I didn’t get to see 17 year-old Missy Franklin win the Gold in the 100-meter backstroke July 30, but I heard about it the next morning. The report stated that Franklin, who is from Aurora, Colo. had a tough time when she heard about the shooting in her hometown when she wasn’t able to confirm right away that her friends and family were safe.
The 6’4″ teenager couldn’t contain her excitement as she touched the end of the pool, stating later to the press that she just had a feeling that she would win the event.
“I just had a really good feeling about it,” she said
Gabby Douglas, who has been training in Des Moines, not only won the Gold medal with the U.S. gymnastics team, but also won a gold medal in the overall competition. This 16 year-old has already become a role for young girls, just as Nadia did for us in the ’70s.
Other stories, not only about U.S. athletes, but those from other countries as well, tell about the struggles, the sacrifices, and the obstacles that they have experienced to get to where they are. It inspires the rest of us to strive to do our best in everything we do, whatever it is we do.
No matter where they came from, Nadia, Kent, Michael, Missy, Greg, Gabby, Shawn, Sam, George, Lily, Sasha, and anyone else who has ever had the motivation and drive to compete in the Olympics, are all winners. They come in all sizes and colors and backgrounds, but there is one thing they all have in common; they want to be the best they can be.
Most certainly, they have all gone for the “Gold.”