Forgetting What is Behind

You know, one of the things l like about watching the Olympics are the stories that are told. It takes a lot to get to the Olympic stage and the sacrifices that are made. But you also get to see athletes putting the past behind them and concentrating on what is ahead of them. Not everyone can be a medalist and those who can’t, move on and hope that they have a better result in the future. Others have overcome a lot of adversity just to get there. They have forgotten that adversity or sadness in their lives and have moved on to perhaps the most memorable time in their lives- competing in the Olympic Games.

Interesting this week also, aside from watching the Olympics, I have had the pleasure of listening to our pastor preach on the letter of Paul to the Phillipians. Our pastor is an athlete, played college basketball, and oftentimes ties his sermons in with athletic themes. This week was no exception as he delivered a message about “running the race.” You can see the passage above in a framed piece that my wife gave to me right around the time we were married. It has the metaphorical meaning of describing a race and striving for the goal. But the spiritual message is that belief in the Lord and what He did on the cross really enables you to forget your past because you know that ……..you are forgiven. A really uplifting message if there ever was one. Forget what is behind you, and strive for the ultimate goal. A timely message during the Olympics.

There is also a story behind this framed passage which I would like to relate. I have always treasured this piece given to me by my wife, Janet. She knew the value of this to me as a runner and also as a Christian. It has great meaning and is inspirational to view every day in my office here at home. But this framed piece has also had a journey in that I gave it to a friend of mine one day as he was diagnosed with cancer. He was distraught as anyone of us would be with the news and I met him one day for lunch and presented him with this framed message as a way to buoy his spirits and give him some inspiration in the troubling days that lie ahead for him with his cancer treatment. We had a lot of discussions over the time of his illness. I told him about the power of prayer and that Janet and I had him on our list- front and center. But, sadly, he passed away. One day, months later, his wife asked me to meet her after a devastating fire destroyed their home. I felt so bad for her as she described the trials she had been through after Dan’s death and then to have her home destroyed by fire. It was incredible that she even was able to talk about it in a calm manner at our lunch visit.

I listened to her and then suddenly she pulled this framed piece out of her purse and gave it to me. She said that Dan had always treasured it and looked at it every day during his suffering and treatments. She said it gave him peace that she could not quite understand. She also said ,incredibly, that it was the only thing that survived the fire by way of personal belongings. It was untouched and unscathed. She couldn’t believe it and wanted me to have it back because she knew how much it meant to me and to Dan and that I could remember him when I looked at it. As hard as life was for her, she became a believer, and now has moved on in her quest for her own prize.

I am not sure at which point or why she was actually moved to believe, seeing that she had every right to be bitter and angry at the way life had turned out for her. But in some way, perhaps the message of this little framed piece inspired her like it had inspired her husband Dan during his trials here on earth. Paul has a way of doing that.

As I look at this piece today, I have visions of Dan running across the finish line in Heaven. Having a celestial Olympic moment. A smile on his face as he left his past behind and pressed on towards the goal. Hopefully we all have that same goal in life as we run together. Thanks for reading.

Driven

I love the Olympics. Have always been fascinated with them since I was a kid. Love to watch the summer and the winter games and try to see as much of it as I can. I even spent a week at the winter games in Lake Placid in 1980. Long time ago. There has been a lot of controversy around the Olympics especially in these times. Costs, political issues, Covid concerns, but the Olympic spirit in my mind, always remains no matter what. Even though the games have been compromised by outside issues, the fact of the matter is that they are still the visible pinnacle of sport to many around the world and also seem somehow to unite all of us under one athletic banner.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about a book that I am reading about Everest and what drives people to climb such a peak. The drive is the same there as it is in the Olympics or sports in general at a world class level. I am always amazed at the personal interest stories about how athletes make it to the Olympics under great personal hardships and sacrifice. If you ask any world class athlete, they will all have similar stories of practice, missing life events, growing up too fast, spending time in foreign countries in difficult conditions. Love to see the stories of the parents and their sacrifices too. But what does it take to make it to the top? Luck, passion, skill, drive, or a combination of all of these?

Nino Schurter- Defending gold medalist in mountain biking

Simone Biles- the GOAT.

I have always been a competitive person. I dabbled in a lot of sports regionally but as I age, my get up and go for a lot of that has gone up and left. But I have always been a fan and when the Olympic theme comes on the TV, the hair stands up on my arms a bit because of my respect for the games and the athletes who have sacrificed so much to get there. I like watching a lot of events that I would not ordinarily have an interest in and the athletes all have one thing in common- drive. Listen to the interviews. You can see the passion and the one sided focus and the stories of personal sacrifice that make up the athletes persona. You can see the tears on their parent’s and coach’s faces as they compete to win the gold medal.

Lots of folks are negative on the Olympics these days because it has been so politicized but I always look at it from the athlete’s perspective. No matter what extraneous issues are presenting themselves, theirs is the story. Not the politics, not the pandemic, not the costs, – for me, just the stories of the athletes and their passion to win with humility and lose with grace. Some of the stories are humorous at the world class level. Take Missy Giove here. She was not happy a few years ago at the NORBA Nationals Mountain Bike Championships when she was beaten in her semi final heat for dual slalom. Missy was always a character on the mountain bike circuit and I loved to hear her interviews and see her compete at the national level. She was tough as nails but when she lost, her humor took over and she gave the crowd a show they will never forget.

For me, again, it is always the stories. The GOATS. Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Allison Schmitt, Michael Grady ,Nino Schurter, and a host of other incredible athletes that make up the Olympic games. Weekend warriors like me will never truly understand the competitive drive and the level at which these athletes perform. But in my own way, I can remember what it feels like to have butterflies at the start of an event. The thrill of winning something and more often of losing something. But at the world class level, it is incomprehensible to the mere mortal. But the scenes presented at the Olympic Games are priceless in my book and I am always happy every four years when they come around for our enjoyment. Don’t get caught up in the politics. Just enjoy the games. Can’t wait until February for the winter games either. Ba da bup ba badda, budda bup baddup bup bup badda! Love that theme. It gets me excited. Thanks for reading.

The Olympic Buzz

Well, the Winter Olympics are coming up in two weeks and I am excited. I have always liked watching all the events and remember the time I was in Lake Placid in 1980 to witness it first hand. The village was abuzz with international visitors and athletes. Pin trading, and general feelings of good will ran among all of the folks walking the streets and taking in the events. It was cold and as I waited in line to get the bus into the venues, I saw the Olympic flame in the distance. I was enthralled but the buzz was quickly killed by the guy behind me who said he wanted to sit his a#$ in that flame right about now. In any event, the Olympics are amazing for a spectator but I cannot imagine the thrill of competing as an athlete. I will be headed up to Lake Placid again right before the opening of the games this year in PyeongChang, South Korea. The cool thing about Lake Placid is that they have kept up all of the venues there and continue to host international and national competitions which keep the Olympic buzz alive in the little village tucked away in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

As an avid skier, I am a student of the game and spend many hours watching the Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Network not only for the results of World Cup ski racing, but to take in the slow motion analysis of the ski racers which translates technique in my brain. I learn by watching and to have the opportunity to DVR the races and watching the analysis is really enjoyable for me. I am a fan and in my wife’s terms, a fan…..atic. I love the winter, skiing, wool hats, snowblowers, snowshoes, sweaters, parkas, wood fires, wood stoves, ice rinks, oh boy, oh boy……… all things about the season and I take in every experience I can during this 4 month period of the year. I actually get depressed when the winter comes to a close. Most of my vacation time is spent on the slopes out west or in the northeast and I can’t get enough of it. I love to ski locally at my beloved Laurel Mountain. Watching ski racing is a bonus for me much to the consternation of my family who think I am off the deep end. But soon, we all will take the time for a couple of weeks to witness the Olympics and even they have to admit, they love watching the races and the pageantry.

Aside from the events themselves, I enjoy the personal stories that NBC shows on its nightly broadcasts. The sacrifice that the athletes make to get to that level of international competition is really compelling and to hear the interviews and see the families and the efforts that they made to support their children’s Olympic dream is pretty fascinating. Nick Paumgarten recently wrote an expose’ in the “New Yorker” called “Confidence Game.” It is perhaps the most insightful analysis of the success of U.S Ski Team phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Download it and read it because it is great journalism. I will be interested to hear Julia Mancuso’s commentary this year as an NBC analyst. The most highly decorated female Olympic racer of all time just retired and will be part of the broadcast team including another huge figure in the sport of ski racing- Bode Miller. Those interviews, and commentaries will be most interesting as well as all the other similar stories and reports for all of the other events this year. I even love curling. Watch those brushes go!!!

Do yourself a favor even if you are not a winter person. Watch the Olympics- opening ceremonies are on NBC on February 8. The stories and the competitions are really good TV especially seeing how dismal network television is now. This will be a bright spot for your viewing pleasure for the first two weeks of February. It may even inspire you to strap on a pair of skates or skis and try it yourself. And for those of you who are avid skiers, skaters, etc. – your time is here. The every four year focus on something other than football, basketball, and golf. Not that anything is wrong with those( PC – please Pat). But the Olympics are special. Think of me on the Summit Chair at Whiteface and the Cottage in Lake Placid, sipping an IPA getting ready for the Games. Yahoo!!! I am excited. Thanks for reading.

The Will to Win

What is it about the Olympics that glues us to the TV every four years? Is it the pageantry of the opening ceremonies? Is it the personal stories of the athletes that make them compelling in our living rooms? Is it the exotic venues that the IOC selects every four years? Perhaps as ABC once stated, is it ” The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” For me, it is all of the above and I must admit that I am addicted to the Olympics. download

Even though the commentary and interviews might be lacking from the color people at NBC, the stories are what interest me. The personal sacrifice of the athletes to get to this point in their career. The missed social lives, the early morning training and dedication to compete. These are the stories that make me an Olympic fan. Last night I watched the daughter of two friends of mine compete in the women’s freestyle relay. Allison Schmitt was a young girl when she left Pittsburgh due to her father Ralph’s new job with Ford in Michigan. We miss Gail and Ralph at North Park where we all were part of Hot Harry’s North Park Runners. But all of us North Parkers were glued to the set to see the gold medal gleaming from her neck last night at the awards ceremony. Aside from her record of 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in the London Games, Allison won her second medal of these Rio games with three other equally talented ladies bringing it home for the US. Impressive to me was the fact that during the presentation ceremony, they all sang the National Anthem. What an inspiring moment and what a picture of dedicated young ladies thrilled with victory and proud of their country. MTZSPDEC77XA8WFS_768x432

Equally impressive to me at the Olympics is the jubilation of the athletes who compete. They might not win a medal but the joy on their faces as they complete their events and the camaraderie between them at the conclusion is exemplary of the Olympic spirit. Edith Thys Morgan, who has a really good blog on ski racing called RacerEX, says it best when she says that when you compete in the Olympics, you are forever an Olympian. She should know, she competed as a US Ski Team member at the Calgary Games. It is akin to the Marines who say, you are a Marine, not a former Marine. You are an Olympian for life. I feel for the folks who were not able to go. My friend Mac Martin who was a national class road cycling competitor was not able to go to Moscow because of the Jimmy Carter boycott. No athlete should be denied their Olympic opportunity because of politics. Sue Haywood was denied at the Athens Games in Women’s Mountain Biking because of a scoring mistake by the governing body of US Cycling. A terrible tragedy that can never be rectified. As an aging weekend warrior athlete, I have so much respect for Olympic caliber athletes because in my own small way, I can appreciate the dedication, the pain and suffering and the joy of competing. The other remarkable thing about the athletes is their normal girl/boy next door attitude during the interviews. They are people just like you and me, as I learned when I met Joan Benoit Samuelson years ago at the Boston Marathon. You could not meet a more unassuming athlete than Joan. Her victory in the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon was indeed impressive but her humble attitude was the most impressive to me. maine-joan-benoit-samuelson

I had the opportunity to attend the Winter Games in Lake Placid back in 1980. I had the good fortune of receiving 900 dollars face value of tickets from my cousin Bill Carroll who worked for Coke at the time. The Durfees and I saw a lot of events that year and as a hopeless romantic, I was impressed with the atmosphere of the Olympics and the beauty of the High Peaks region in the Adirondacks. As we stood in line to get the bus into the village from the parking lot one day, it was wicked cold. But all I could think about was being at the Olympics as I remarked how beautiful the Olympic flame was with the peaks in the background. The guy behind me remarked that he wanted to ” sit his a#$ in that flame right now” and kind of burst my bubble of enjoyment. But we all laughed as we boarded the bus, freezing to death but excited to spend another day at the venues. I saw Eric Heiden win all of his golds in speed skating and noted the Russians who stood in awe of this amazing American athlete resplendent in his gold speed suit. 1081918_10_147x110

So, in the midst of all the political turmoil going on in the country and the world right now, it is relieving to me to be able to turn off the news and tune in to NBC to once again view the events of the Rio Olympics. The world takes a break for two weeks as the athletes and the world come together to celebrate the Olympic spirit. From the march of the refugee team to a standing ovation, to the excellence of our ladies gymnastics team( arguably the best ever), to Melo and his record scoring in men’s basketball without a jaded bone in his body appreciating representing his country, to the closing ceremonies, the Olympics are just so cool. Tune in if you have not already. Thanks for reading.