The Winter Olympics have been the centerpiece of our evenings this month, at least when we’re not at basketball games, practicing spelling words, selling nachos in a school concession stand, or attending a million other activities. It’s a good thing life is slow in a small town (that’s sarcasm, by the way).
The United States took 244 athletes (135 men, 109 women) to Pyeongchang, South Korea. By far my favorite part is not the competition, but the stories behind the athletes competing. To understand the true value of the victory, you have to know the background, the struggle, the journey, the sacrifice.
Some of my favorite moments were watching Hungary win their first Winter Olympic gold in 500 meter speed skating, and break a record while doing it. First ever! What that must have felt like for that young man to bring home his country’s first medal.
Or how about Shaun White? Competing in his fourth Olympics, he won gold — his third. He’s a veteran when it comes to winning, but his reaction to this Olympic victory was so heartfelt. I mean, he embraced his mother and cried his eyes out, for heaven’s sakes! Four months prior, this young man who seemed invincible, had a horrible accident while snowboarding that required 62 stitches in his face, including his tongue. If you haven’t seen the video of his crash, it’s online. I am amazed by his courage to get back on his board and then to sweep the gold — so inspiring.
And then the U.S. women’s hockey team upsetting Canada, 3-2, in a game-winning shoot-out, earning the team their first gold since 1998. I can’t get enough of it! I love a good underdog, comeback story.
But as I watch the Olympic Games, athletes achieving victory and experiencing loss, I can’t help but think of their mothers, what they must be experiencing as they watch their children compete on the world’s stage.
My kids tease me every time a skater falls or a skier crashes, because my first thought — and often comment — whether it’s the Olympics or otherwise, is: “I’ll bet their mother’s heart is just breaking for them.”
As parents, we have the excruciating privilege of having a front row seat to the hearts and lives of our children. We know, better than anyone, what it took, what’s been sacrificed, the tears that have been shed, the prayers that have been lifted, for our kids to be where they are and to get where they are going — whether in victory or loss, first place or last. It can be heart-wrenching, and yet so incredible all at the same time.
Many thanks to our American athletes for two weeks of inspiring stories, stiff competition, and incredible victories — and to the moms and dads who have whispered in their ears, “You can do it!”