Appreciating Olympic Athletes

Just 100 days to go until London 2012!

Today kicks off the beginning of a much anticipated countdown to the summer games. Stadiums are all receiving their finishing touches and I couldn’t help but notice a general refreshing excitement evident among the locals during my recent visit. Despite some woes about what traffic jams may loom, most Londoners seem to be looking forward to the Olympic takeover.

Olympic Rings Launched Down River Thames

I must say that writing about sports and having quite a few close friends who are athletes, I am lucky enough to continuously witness what it really takes for these men and women to compete at such high levels…the highest levels, really. So naturally, when I overheard some guys speaking ignorantly about athletes today, I listened a little bit closer. Nothing annoys me more than ignorance. I heard every single stereotype known to man and their references were terribly predictable.

“They get to work out every day and get paid for it. Way too easy.”

Were these guys intoxicated? Clearly they had never watched an NFL training camp workout. I did my best to stand quietly, which was no easy feat…especially for me. But it wasn’t until one of them made a certain statement that I just couldn’t bite my tongue any longer.

“The Olympic athletes have it even easier because it’s not a whole season of competing. Big deal, one lap around a track.”

Enter me.

Much to this guy’s dismay, I interjected my uninvited, yet educated opinion. I pointed out that he clearly had no concept of what it entails to be a professional athlete. Particularly those training for the Olympics.  They must meet high standards in international competition to qualify. In other sports, they must earn their spot through intense qualifying competition in their homeland. For most Olympic athletes, it is their life’s work. Sure major league athletes work horrifically-grueling schedules and workouts as well, but they also receive a paycheck. An Olympic athlete is not paid. They may receive sponsorships, etc., but their main goal is to obtain that Gold medal. THAT is REAL love for a sport, in my opinion.

The body-depleting workouts, the non-stop rigorous schedules, the travel, the fine-tuned strategically-planned diets and nutritional plans…but most of all, the time. There is no time for anything else. Nothing. Not family, not friends, not a social life. Your sport is your life. Period.

Annoyed with my interjection, he scoffed. I politely suggested he try and wake up 365 days a year and instead of putting on a suit to go shuffle around a bank branch all day, wake up before sunrise and get to the gym…not once, but twice a day…at least. And how about considering the risk of injury from both training and competing. I imagined the only injury he may risk would be from a massive coronary from stuffing himself with fast food during his lunch break every afternoon.

“Do some research,” I said. Clearly embarrassed, he gave me a blank stare while his friends laughed. I sweetly smiled and went on my way.

With only 100 days to go until the summer Olympics, I hope that everyone who will be watching the games truly appreciates what we are witnessing. These are not just talented athletes. They are people whose entire lives have been dedicated to one thing and one thing only for years of training at a time. Not to mention their opportunity to compete only comes every four years!

So the next time you hear someone rambling on like Mr. Know It All about the easy life of an athlete, remember that what may look like a few quick sprints around the track to an outsider, is actually a lifetime whirlwind of passion, drive, and dreams tucked away deeply into that very swift pair of Nikes.

4 thoughts on “Appreciating Olympic Athletes

  1. Good insight! I can’t wait for the Olympics! London should be pretty amazing!

  2. As an athlete in training, I appreciate what you wrote here! Thank you and well done.

  3. It’s true! People think being an athlete is all fun and games. Far from it! Thanks for this nice piece.

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