Well, it’s only been three days since the closing ceremonies and I already miss the Olympics. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I love the Olympic games…summer, winter, it doesn’t matter to me. I love the patriotism and the fanfare. I love the beauty of skill and the adrenaline of competitive nature.
But most of all, I love watching a future dream turn to reality for the athletes. I love watching years of preparation materialize into a few precious minutes that take center stage.
I am always amazed.
From the comfort of my couch I sit in judgement, critiquing and applauding each performance. Certain exhibitions foster my own adrenaline and I tremble with excited nerves, as if my own physical alignment with a particular athlete will somehow affect the outcome. I honestly can’t imagine what it would feel like to be in their shoes (or skis, or skates, as it may be…).
That feeling was tenfold when I heard the story of Joannie Rochette.
If you don’t know the story, here it is: the Canadian figure skater had come to Vancouver several days before her events began. Her parents followed a few days later and her mother suffered a heart attack almost immediately upon arrival…before she ever got to see Joannie. Olympic officials and her father waited until morning to wake the skater, who was set to practice that day.
No one knew how Joannie would react. How would anyone react in that situation, honestly? But, after visiting the hospital where her mother’s body was being kept, Joannie headed back to the rink and went on with practice. Olympic officials were very clear that she did not have to continue, but many speculated that the ice was the only place she felt normal during those first few difficult days.
That was a Sunday. Joannie’s first event was on Tuesday. When she took the ice, cameras panned to the stands where her father, dressed in Canadian garb to show support for his daughter, was nearly hunched over weeping. As were many of the friends and family who surrounded him to cheer for Joannie.
Joannie herself was very composed as she took the ice and then proceeded to skate a nearly perfect routine that immediately placed her in the top three. With the flourish of her hand at the end of the routine it seemed a dam broke and all she had held back so carefully came rushing to the surface. She seemingly melted into a pool of emotion and was helped from the ice by her coach once she skated to the edge of the rink. As she sat sobbing and waiting for her scores to come in, she uttered something along the lines of: “this was for you Mama” in her native French.
Joannie Rochette eventually placed third in women’s ice skating and took home the bronze medal. Had courage under fire been taken into consideration she should have taken home the gold, if you ask me.
Stories like Joannie’s are the reason I love the Olympics. That type of poise and determination inspire me, encourage me and motivate me. Not everyone could have stepped out onto the ice in front of millions after losing their mother, much less still excelled.
I want to be like that. I want to give a command performance in everything I do – whether it’s for an audience of millions or merely two – despite the circumstances that surround me. Most of the time I wonder if I have that kind of grace within myself. So often I’m reminded that I cannot do it on my own. I don’t think most of us could. Constantly I’m reminded that I, myself, am unable to “step onto the ice and perform well” without my own cheering section (family and friends) or my Coach (the Lord).
Personally, I don’t want to try.