Every four years, I join with most of the World in cheering the amazing athletic endeavors of Olympians. Their triumphs, and even defeats stir my emotions like no other sporting events. (Of course, being a Seattle Mariners fan, I get so little to cheer about, aside from when Felix Hernandez is pitching another brilliant game, but that's a bit off point.)
For every Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas, or best of all the unexpected champions like Andy Murray, there are the competitors who give it all they've got, yet fall short. Those gritty women's marathoners are a prime example of "No Quit in Them".
Sadly, and selfishly, every year since 1972, I've watched the Summer Olympic Games with a nagging feeling of personal failure lurking behind every vignette. That was the year I tried out for the Olympics, as a trapshooter. I made it to the regional trial, where I was promptly swatted out of the competition like a clay target hit by #8 shot...orange dust in the sky. I hadn't made it my life's ambition to qualify, mind you, and entered as an impulse, but once I got caught up in the immensity of "making the USA Olympic Team", I wanted it badly.
So I tried and failed...once...no disgrace in that, is there? Well, it's more what I did after that failure which has left me nursing regret for 40 years. Every time I hear another heartwarming story of Olympians overcoming setbacks, injuries, major tragedies to finally qualify for their national team, all I can think is, "You gave up, dude." Maybe I wasn't ever going to be good enough to make the team. But simply because it didn't fall into my lap the first time, I walked away from ever trying again. Perhaps if I had The Right Stuff, had dedicated my energy and time to improving, reaching the very best that I was capable of being, I could have achieved that rare status of "Olympian". Just before the women's marathon, Desiree Davila, who had qualified as the #2 US woman, was being interviewed about the very painful hip flexor injury she had incurred. When asked if she was going to withdraw from the marathon, Ms. Davila squared up to the interviewer and said, "In order to be considered an Olympian, I have to run the race. I don't know how long I'll be able to run, but all my life I've wanted to be considered an Olympian...so yes, I'm going to start."
That statement neatly summed up why Desiree Davila deserves to be a part of that special group, for the rest of her life...and why I'm sitting in my recliner, cheering her, and others like her, while feeling damned inadequate.
I feel better now...thanks.