My eyes were glued to the TV last Thursday night, and along with the rest of the country, my heart sank when 21-year old Olympian Michelle Kwan fell out of her jump and onto the ice.
The tension was thick and the anticipation was high for the rest of the women’s ice-skating event. In the end, when I learned that 16-year-old Sarah Hughes had eventually won the gold medal, I felt as if I was watching my little sister on the podium.
And I know I wasn’t the only one ? my sorority was watching with me. It is funny how in the two weeks of the Olympic Games, we feel somewhat attached to these athletes. They have become pseudo-family members.
Sure, part of it is due to our American pride and our support for the U.S. Olympians. But somehow, many of us have developed a bond only with those on whom the media has shone a spotlight.
Don’t believe me?
I bet that most of you will recognize the names Picabo Street and Bode Miller. How about the hip soul patch and Apolo Anton Ohno? And Chris Witty, the woman who battled back from mono to skate a world-record?
A couple days ago, people who have never watched the skeleton race before watched Jim Shea slide down the icy track face first with a picture of his late grandfather in his helmet. Even men who have hardly watched pairs skating judged the performance of Canadian pairs Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. And when the press told us about the 46-year-old medal drought of the four-men bobsled team, ratings soared for NBC.
Overnight, due to the high profile press, these winners all became America’s newest sweethearts.
During the last two weeks, it finally hit me how commercialized athletics has become. I must admit, I fell into it too.
Being an avid sports fan, I watched many of the Olympic events. But the must-see events on my list all involved either one of my favorite athletes or one about whom I had read a personal feature.
I am not saying that these athletes do not deserve the press and the recognition ? I just hope that it is more than 15 seconds.
A little pessimistic, I know. But I have seen those adored be dropped by fans and press the moment they stumbled.
No, I am wrong on that. They first ask them why they think they had failed and make them feel bad they did not live up to the general public’s expectations. Then, the hype moves on and manufacturers have eyed a pot of gold in another athlete.
It is no wonder so many athletes turn professional or stop competing the moment they taste glory. Their love for the sport still lives, but the desire to compete fizzles. I guess I understand ? everyone wants to be remembered as a champion.
As true sports fans, I propose that we take a step back and remember to recognize every competitor for working hard and earning our respect and admiration at these Olympic Games.
Winning isn’t everything ? no matter what Vince Lombardi says. All athletes are people too and they are allowed mistakes or bad performances. It is not an excuse ? it is just reality.
Despite not grabbing the Olympic gold, Kwan should be admired for her dominance in women’s figure skating over the past five years. And ex-Olympic gold medalist Eric Bergoust of mens freestyle aerials should still be known for his revolutionary approach after his fall in this years finals.
As the curtain closes on the Olympics once again, we must not forget all athletes’ tenacity, perseverance and true sportsmanship. After all, the purpose of the games is not to take someone down, but to push someone up.
Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.