The 2012 London Summer Olympics Is a Lesson in Tears, Triumph, and Finding the Strength to Go On

So what do you think of these London 2012 Olympics so far?

I’ve already had one friend construct an elaborate Summer Olympics XXX joke (with emphasis on “XXX”), and have heard more than one person lamenting the incredible amount of filler during the primetime show (“If you fast forward the DVR, you can watch four hours of coverage in 45 minutes!”).  Yes, it’s nice to know a little about the athletes, but the key term there–“a little.”  I’ve seen Michael Phelps’ winning swims from past Olympics so many times, I feel like I’ve been there coaching him.

Which, of course, I haven’t.  I’m not sure any athlete really cares what I have to say, but still…y’know…that’s how I feel.

I won’t do the spoiler thing (in case you have the shows on DVR for later), but I’ll share that so far, I’ve found the gymnastics and swimming the most entertaining. Of course, that probably puts me in the majority, but still…that’s just my opinion…even if it’s part of the majority.

But something struck me the other day.  The tears of a Russian gymnast after one of her performances in the team event.  It was a floor exercise and there were some problems.  Afterwards?  Well, afterwards, she was devastated.  Completely devastated.  In near-hysterics.  Her score wasn’t so great, and it likely was the turning point in the competition (maybe), but wow.  Tears.  Pain.

That got me thinking about something I consider every two years when one of the Olympic games is on–summer or winter.  How is it that people so young can take so much pressure?  Ice skaters, gymnasts, swimmers.  I can’t even putt on a golf course if the ranger or another group is watching, but these folks…well…they bring it, for good or for ill, in front of thousands in person and millions on TV.  Especially the runners and track stars.  There are 70,000 people in the Olympic stadium, cheering.  And if you’re from Great Britain?  Well, wow.  No pressure or anything.

No pressure.

What is it that gets us through when the pressure mounts?  Where do we find the will to continue on, whether we’re competing, inspiring, having hopes dashed, or silently struggling?  Where is that storehouse?  The wellspring?  Where does it come from?

Yeah, I have theories, which I won’t share here.  But it’s a question worth considering.  It’s not just the Olympics.  It’s the history of humanity.  It’s discovering new worlds, fighting difficult wars, spending late nights studying, striving a whole lifetime to discover something that could change science and technology forever.  Any time the stakes are high, the pressure can be high.  How have we managed to succeed as a human race through the ages?

The gymnastics team event is over, and that Russian gymnast’s tears have likely dried.  She’s had lots of good advice from lots of well-meaning people.  But in the end?  Well, she has to find it in herself to go on in the gym, and in life.  The inner wellspring has to flow from inside her.  The will to continue must come from her alone.

So, we’ll keep watching the Olympics.  These 2012 London Summer Games–XXX and all that.  We’ll see cheering.  We’ll see more tears.  We’ll see tons and tons and tons of filler, stretching one hour of primetime coverage to four.

But we’ll also see something else–that amazing ability to forge ahead, push on, and continue…even when it looks like all is lost.  Even there–especially there– something can be found that may not win a medal, but it will surely be a victory nonetheless.

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