Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic Dreams Can Be Sad

Even as a child I loved watching the Olympics. Back then it was every four years, and we'd get it during the summer and then the winter of the same year. Now, of course, we get one or the other every other year. It might be better like that. For the viewers it probably is, but I'm not sure how the athletes feel. I've never asked them.

One thing is very different. There are more human interest stories now than there used to be. Back then we saw the sports and that was pretty much it. It was what we expected, and what we got. Now there's an awful lot of filler. (There are also a lot of DVRs recording and skipping through a lot of that filler...) Anyway, tonight they did a piece on the coach for the Chinese Ice Skating Pairs team. Twenty years ago they entered their first competition and people laughed because they were so bad. Now they're champions.

Obviously, I don't think anyone should be laughed at for doing their best. Where were those Olympics held? That's what they should have told us in that little fluff piece, but they didn't. They made the coach sound like a hero for being away from his family for the better part of two decades to train the athletes into the champions they are. His son is named the Chinese equivalent of "Far Away." Is that supposed to be a heroic thing?

These athletes are "picked out as children," taken away from their families while they're tiny and taken to live together in a sports facility with the coach. They live in dormitories, eat in cafeterias, and see their families only on rare and special occasions so that they might obtain this gold medal for their country's honor.

It made me sad. This isn't a heroic thing to me. Families living and loving together, driving to practice and having macaroni and cheese instead of something more expensive to save money so they can pay for lessons—that's heroic. And if you get a bronze or a silver, or even just tenth place and know you've done it with the support of family and friends, not the power of a big nation? That's heroic in my mind. And many of them do get the gold. Different priorities.

I would think the personal feelings of success have to resonate on a different level.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Isn't that the way the girls in eastern Europe and China were "recruited" and trained in gymnastics for the summer Olympics as well? Can you remember way back when some young athletics from some countries were devastated and fearful when they failed to live up to their government's expectations? Our American athletes may not get the money and government support, but at least they have the love of their families.

Kathleen said...

You help make my point, Patricia. Government pressure and financial support cannot produce heroic results. Only freedom to choose and the focus of the dream can do that. I don't believe many countries can provide that as well as America, although there are a few, including Canada, I believe.

Ninjacurry said...

Nice blogg well done

Kerrie said...

Very interesting post. I agree Kathleen that family is so very important. When we take that away from these young athletes and train them to only win, that can't be good for them. Getting a medal is great, but getting a medal because of the sacrifices and support of your family has to be amazing.