Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Inspiration

And a bit of distraction, truth be told. I've always loved watching the Olympic Games. Then I went to work for the USOC when I first moved to Colorado Springs, and I really got hooked. My first week there, I met the guys from the 1984 Men's Gymnastic Team, the ones who won the gold medal in Los Angeles. Tim Daggett, Bart Conner, Scott Johnson and the rest. Later in the week, I met Scott Hamilton, who is a very nice and quite funny guy. Throughout the years, I met many athletes. Some more names you might recognize (Janet Evans, Bob Seagren, Al Orter, Rowdy Gaines) and many, many more that you wouldn't. But every one of them had a dedication to their sport, to sport in general.

For every Scott Hamilton or Janet Evans or Michael Phelps there are hundreds of others who train just as hard and sacrifice just as much, if not more, to work toward that dream of competing in the Olympics. Notice the word I used: competing. Not winning. Not even medaling. Just competing. There is a rule at the Olympic Committee. Well, there are lots of rules, but the one I'm thinking of is that you never refer to someone as "former Olympian." Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. Because just getting there is such a huge accomplishment that it cannot be taken away ever.

Several of the resident athletes worked for me in data processing. I can't count the number of times one or the other of them came to work with an ice pack to put on an injury while they worked. I learned a lot about dedication, hard work and pure guts from these young people. And watching this latest crop compete in Beijing, I'm humbled. And a little ashamed of myself.

There are correlations that you've no doubt noticed between the quest of the athletes and the quest of writers. You may toil in obscurity for years only to achieve your goal and then remain unknown to the vast majority of people. You may not even reach that goal at all no matter how talented you are or how much you work at it. A select few will reach Michael Phelps-like status.

I've been known to whine and complain about how hard this writing gig is. (Quel surprize!) I'm not out running in rain and snow to achieve my goal. I'm not getting up at four o'clock in the morning so I can get on the ice to practice before school or work. And I'm not in a pool or on a track so many hours a day that I don't have time to work a regular job. There aren't long hours of physical therapy to correct whatever injuries I've inflicted on myself in the pursuit of perfection. So far I've had hand cramps from writing longhand and a bruised ego from rejection notices. No surguries or therapy required. Yet.

So the lesson here, for me, is to quit whining. To just do it, as the ad says. Now we all know it won't stick. I'll be complaining again soon enough. But for now I'm going to take a page from these incredible men and women. Do the work.