Would you invest four years of your life to put it all on the line for four minutes? Most of the Sochi Olympic athletes would undoubtedly answer “yes” to that question. The athletes are certainly all-in and it shows in their facial expressions regardless of whether their efforts lead to the podium or last place.
Perhaps it is the feelings of shared sacrifice that binds these athletes together, not simply their astounding athleticism.
The pent-up toll of sacrifice shows up when we see snowboarders from different nations puppy-pile on each other at the finish line with screams of joy.
It is on display in U.S. skier Bode Miller’s soulful eyes as he stares back at a mountain that was once a friend but now may seem more like a foe.
It is seen in the despaired visage of Russian cross-country skier Anton Gafarov. After breaking a ski and receiving a replacement mid-race from Team Canada, Gafarov merely finished a race he was once favored to win.
These years of sacrifice are chronicled in many of the human interest stories that run during the Olympics broadcasts. The video vignettes offer insight into what occurs during the four years the athletes are out of public view. One of the most memorable narratives concerns the relationship between Canadian mogul skier Alex Bilodeau and his brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Bilodeau eloquently stated after his gold medal win, “Whatever I do in life, my brother is my real inspiration. Just like you and I, he has dreams and most of them are not realizable to him. But he never complains…Every step is so hard for him in life and I have an easy path and I need to go after and do the best I can just out of respect to him.”
Finally, let’s talk about the mom’s emotional ride on the sacrificial see-saw. Yes, I know Procter and Gamble staged its “Thanks, Mom” commercials to make me cry and remember the company name – but I still love them.
I can relate as I want to gag in tense moments of my own kid’s high school sporting events and our family has only given up a few social outings and family vacations. Imagine the tornado spinning in the stomach of Tina Oshie, mother of U.S. men’s hockey player T.J. Oshie, as T.J. went four for six goals in a 3-2 shootout victory for the U.S. team over Russia. Tina said in an interview with the Today show, “I was on the edge of my seat the whole game.”
These athletes — and their moms — have earned permission to fully release their emotions at the games and we thank them for sharing their roller-coaster rides with us.
Carol Lewis Gullstad February 17, 2014