Why the Olympics make me cry

I’m a sucker for the Olympics. The first one I recall was 1976 in Montreal when Nadia Comaneci perfected gymnastics. I was only six at the time, and she barely looked older, but I was hooked.

Fast forward to 1984. My dad lived in Los Angeles, and I got to attend the Opening Ceremonies, Track and Field events, and a baseball game. Mary Lou Retton. Carl Lewis. ZOLA BUDD. These are names I’ll never forget.

Remember when the Summer and Winter Games were held in the same year? And you had to wait FOUR ENTIRE YEARS for an Olympiad of any season? I preferred it that way, but much like I feel about interleague baseball, I accept the current reality as something I cannot change.

I don’t just love the Olympics for the sports, though I do love all the sports (especially curling and figure skating and alpine skiing and hockey and luge and bobsled). I eat up the human interest stories too. I want to be emotionally invested in the athletes. They perform these spectacularly inhuman feats, but to know that they eat, breathe, live, love, bruise and sometimes want to give up makes their moment of glory all the more, well, glorious.

I take the Olympics seriously. In August 2008, the cops came a calling at midnight because I was screaming so loud when Michael Phelps won gold by a gazillionth of a second that someone reported a domestic disturbance. I still get depressed when I think about Michelle Kwan never winning gold. And don’t even get me started on the Dan Jansen story. Athletes who come back to win gold after previously failing have a special place in my heart. And moms. Oh, the moms get me every time.

So far, the 2014 games will be marked by Bob Costas and his bout with Russian pink eye; the enthusiasm of the biathlon sports broadcasters; and most beautifully, Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning gold in ice dance. I’ve watched their gold medal performance five times and each viewing brings me to tears. Though why didn’t NBC air their medal ceremony? Oh, because the Russians changed things up so they get a flower ceremony right away and the medals later? Come on, the athletes should get their gold medals immediately upon winning their events. So they can sleep with them. Which is totally what I’d do if I ever won gold (or silver or bronze).

My friend Kate and I have a little joke where she texts me during the broadcasts to ask “are you crying yet” and the answer is always yes. So I started wondering, why am I extra sappy this time around? Why do I hold my breath for every big moment?

It didn’t take me long to figure out the answer. Like these athletes, I’m also in pursuit of a goal. In late September, I started a novel literally overnight and next week, I’m sending a completed manuscript to be edited. I have good days and bad days, but every day I write or edit or think about my story. I’ve discovered that writing is my life’s passion but if I want it to be my purpose, I have to succeed. And I’m driven to make the podium regardless of how many runs I have to take to get there.


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