Dear Journal: Rio

Dear Journal,

rio-de-janeiro-2016-olympic-parkI wish I was in Rio right now. Yes, Zika virus be damned. I want to be there. I’ve always felt a connection to the Olympics, at least since 1996. Back then it was Atlanta, and it was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and it was Michael Johnson.

Back then it was all about track and field. The swimming was a mere blip on my radar. I remember Lenny Krayzelburg, but only because of that unique name. So it’s funny that 20 years later I’m thinking of Rio, but I’m really thinking of the swimming competition. That’s because of Michael Phelps, of course, but it’s more than that.

I wish I was in Rio right now, breathing in that musty air, being one of the many bodies packing those grand venues, living the Olympic dream. Before I die I have to personally experience an Olympics. There’s absolutely nothing in the world quite like it. I know. I can feel it slightly muted through the TV.

I have always loved things that were larger than life. No, not like that Backstreet Boys song, but really larger than life. People like Michael Jordan, events like the Super Bowl, but this — the Olympics — is somehow larger than all of that, and it’s not even close.

Back in 2000 I started taping some of the events. I have a disc’s worth of snippets from Sydney, and I wish now that I had preserved more from those epic games. I did capture the debut of Mr. Phelps, though, and his battle with the Thorpedo. That was epic.

Olympic Swimming Pool
The pool in the Water Cube where many world records were recorded during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

And then there was Athens (20 discs), followed by Beijing (23 discs), and then London (25 discs). I watch them religiously when I want something dynamic on in the background, or when I’m feeling nostalgic, or just because. That’s what the Olympics is for me. It’s a “just because.”

I can talk for ages about why Paul Hamm really deserved his gold medal, about the incredible come from behind victory for the men’s 4×100 team in Beijing, and about Gabby Douglas making history in the all-around. I can wax nostalgic about Missy Franklin’s 30-minute turnaround, about Natalie Coughlin’s incredible Athens, or about Kerri and Misty winning triple-gold at 3 straight Olympics. That’s incredible.

And that’s led us to Rio, at least this time around. So I want to be there. I want to walk on that hallowed ground. I want to close my eyes and soak it all in. Because it only happens once every four years — the Summer Olympics — and I’m not there.

Sam

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