I love the Olympics.  Love.  And I do not use hyperbole lightly. 

For weeks prior to the opening ceremonies, I have been anticipating this culmination of athletic prowess that is the Winter Olympics.  Beyond the physical displays, I am such a sucker for the testimonials and athlete profiles that even the commercials have been choking me up.  The bigger the personal tribulations and triumph, the more of a sap I get while watching the performance.  I often cannot watch the medal ceremonies without getting a little teary. 

Part of my excitement in being an Olympic spectator is derived from my upbringing.  We are a skiing family, and every single weekend, my family drove from our house in New Jersey to our ski home in upstate New York.  In retrospect, I don’t know how my mom did it; she wrangled two kids, packed clothing and groceries, planned dinners for the weekend, and had us in the car after school by 4:00 on Friday afternoon.  My parents would have dressed us in about 18 layers, shoved breakfast in our mouths, tossed us into ski boots, and deposited us on the mountain to join our clinic group by 9:00 am on Saturday and Sunday.  And then they would ski with their friends. 

I know the devotion it takes to be invested in a sport from the age of three years old to adulthood.  While I certainly was not on the Olympic track, kids I skied with have made the Olympic B team or have raced against Bode Miller.  Sometimes won against Bode Miller.  Being immersed in this atmosphere makes me aware that it’s not only the devotion of the athlete; it’s also that of the athlete’s family.  At the end of every single ski run aired during the Olympics, I look for the skier to find his or her parents.  That moment always gets me, as I remember my own parents taking turns transporting my sister and me to different mountains, getting up at 4:00 am on a Saturday, and staying at the bottom of a race course in the cold to congratulate or console, as needed.    My dad always says that was the happiest time of his life, and for his sacrifices, I empathize with all the Olympic families. 

Of course, there is more than the emotional aspect which I find awe-inspiring.  The sheer physicality of it all astounds me.  I was watching biathlon Sunday afternoon, and was fixated on the thigh muscles of those cross-country skiers.  It seems super-human, which I guess is the point of putting all those athletes together on display for the world.  The women athletes, in particular, embody all that is empowering about women in sports: they are svelte and muscular, embraced in a society where, while their body types may not be the “ideal,” are lauded for what their bodies can do for them, whether it is catapulting them in the air off a ski jump, shuttling them down a mountain at 80 mph through a super-G course, or hurling themselves in loops over an ice skating rink.  When I was in high school, Picabo Street was pretty much my role model – and she was a size 10, muscular, fierce role model.  Now, I think Lindsay Vonn, in her strength, speed, and general brazen attitude serves as a role model to girls. 

Now, to revisit my glory days, here is a picture from the racing years.  I will spare you any shots of me in a GS suit (luckily, I don’t think those pictures survived). 

my glory days

Looks just like Lindsay Vonn, right??  Oh, how I wish.  I’m going skiing this weekend, and I may just be humming the Olympic theme down the slopes.

What is your favorite Olympic event to watch?

– Joanna

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