The main goal of the Olympics is to unite the world’s finest athletes in the spirit of healthy competition. Olympic events feature summer or winter sport competitions in which thousands of athletes participate, coming from more than 200 nations. The games alternate every two years between the Summer and Winter Olympics. To win an Olympic competition, whether it’s a gold, silver, or bronze medal, comes with much admiration from fans all around the world.
• To play fair-and-square – The Olympic games follow set rules and guidelines. In December of 2019, Russia was banned for four years from all major sporting events for a state-sponsored systematic doping and lying to the World Anti-Doping Agency. This led to a ban which ultimately meant that Russian athletes could only compete in the Tokyo Olympics under the Russian Olympic Committee logo (not under the Russian flag) after passing anti-doping tests. There are many reasons why performance enhancing drugs are forbidden in the Olympics. Not only do these drugs carry serious health risks, but they also may provide unfair advantages to some athletes and harm the integrity and values of the sport. This year, American runner Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended for use of weed as it poses a risk to athletes and is in violation of the spirit of the sport. Olympic participants understand the rules and consequences and both players and countries must commit to being clean and playing fair-and-square.
• To set goals and work hard – Many Olympians are superior goal setters. They know what they want to achieve, winning the Gold, and utilize their energy to get to that goal. Swimmer Michael Phelps is considered the greatest Olympian of all time, with 28 medals spanning five games, of which 23 are Gold, three are Silver, and two are Bronze. While the 6-foot-4 Baltimore native and father of three is no longer competing in the Olympics, he is now a businessman and philanthropist, Olympic correspondent, and swimming commentator, and does advocacy work for mental health awareness. As an author of motivational books, the Olympic legend shares, “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” In his book, No Limits, Phelps takes readers behind the scenes to experience the hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and the attitude that drove him to win time and time again.
• To do what you love most – A common theme amongst Olympians is their love of sport. Retired American ice skater and Gold Medal figure skater Dorothy Hamill was no exception. She described her love of ice skating and her youthful shyness, “I was passionate. I found something that I loved. I could be all alone in a big old skating rink, and nobody could get near me, and I didn’t have to talk to anybody because of my shyness. It was great. It was my fantasy world.” Hamill is the 1976 Olympic champion and the 1976 World champion in ladies’ singles. She was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of fame in 1991 and remains dedicated to helping other through her charity work. Hamill tended to love the ice. From an early age, she taught herself to skate on a local pond and convinced her parents to let her take group lessons at a local rink. And, by the time she was 12, she began winning major championships doing what she loved. Though she sacrificed some of her social time as a teen, she was always quite content on the ice.
• To win and lose with grace – On January 1996, American ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after practice at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The attack became one of the most talked about sports scandals in history. The attacker was hired by the ex-husband of her rival, Tonya Harding. Fortunately, Kerrigan’s landing knee healed. Both athletes competed in the February 1994 Winter Olympics, where Kerrigan won the silver medal and Harding finished eighth. It is believed that fierce competition, fear of losing, and jealousy played a part in the attack. Kerrigan explained, “Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn how to win and not run away when you lose. Everyone has bad stretches and real successes. Either way you have to be careful not to lose your confidence or get too confident.”
• To prioritize one’s overall wellbeing – The recent Olympic withdrawals of American gymnast Simone Biles places an emphasis on the mental aspects of participation in sports in high-profile events. In gymnastics, an extreme physical sport, there are some unexplained physical and mental ramifications due to the loss of control of the body as the gymnast moves from the air. Not only can this phenomenon be physically disorienting to athletes, but it is thought to mess with the mind. In fact, athletes have given it a name, “the Twisties.” Being a solid athlete involves protecting one’s body as well as one’s mind. For example, a player with a broken leg is forced to withdraw from competition. Likewise, physical issues that alter the mind can be equally devastating for an Olympic participant. Thus, athletes must consider their mental health to be as important a focus as their physical health. Despite the heartbreak and the loss of her ability to compete for the team, Biles explains, “I’ll usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal.”
The remarkable athletes who participate in each Olympic sport set the bar high, not only through their athletic skills and physical endurance, but by their positive mental attitudes. While the Olympic games are extremely entertaining, there are many lessons we can take away and apply to our own lives. This includes following one’s dream, being honest and fair, working hard and making sacrifices, and striving for the Gold.
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