I went ice skating once, a long time ago, and I did it because of peer pressure. I mean, everyone else was doing it, so I tried it too. When we got to the rink it reminded me of bowling because I had to rent skates, and the pressure was intense when they didn’t know if they would be able to find them in my size. Luckily for me there was one pair that wasn’t going to totally crush my feet, so I put them on and went out on the ice. And promptly fell flat on my butt.
But in my mind I was a world-class skater who never fell, who skated figure eights with the utmost of ease, and who didn’t need the wall just to hold me up. It was at times like those when reality somehow put a dent in my self-image, reminding me that while there might be some thing I’m good at, there are countless others that I should probably just leave alone. Unless I was absolutely committed to getting better at them and becoming something special. Otherwise, it would be best to live vicariously through others who were gifted or who put in the years of training to be as good as they were in a sport I wished I had in my back pocket.
So, in that summer of 1996 I made up my mind to learn as much as I could about international sports, to soak in the feel of victory and the agony of defeat, and to feel as alive as I could, as energetic as those people I watched on the screen who could do so much. And as luck would have it, the Olympics were occurring that very summer in Atlanta. I didn’t miss one second of them. I scrambled to watch every event, to cheer on each athlete, and to revel in the cultural aspects that make the Olympics second to none when it comes to sporting events.
I loved watching the parade of nations on that first night, seeing the gaudy costumes, the big hair, and the stunning surroundings. For two weeks I was mesmerized. I even tried once again to do some of those physical activities — I hurt my back trying to do a flip like Shannon Miller. And by the time the fortnight was over, my absolute love of Olympic competition had been forged, despite the bomb, despite the poor showing of some of my favorite Olympians, and even with the lack of ice skating (I would have to wait another two years to see that in Nagano). I was hooked. Continue reading “The Magic of the Games”