Olympians can inspire us on and off the playing field
The Olympics are inspirational in many ways. We sit breathless watching people do what seems impossible — super-human, if you will.
As I wrote in the last post, the 2012 London games have been an inspiration to girls and women all over the world who are seeing someone of their gender compete for their country (many for the first time). Even Team USA made history even before landing in the UK, by sending more women than men for the first time ever.
But as the games unfold, I see so many ways to be inspired by the stories of Olympians. Indeed, I think it would be great if some of their stories inspired some of the changes many of us work hard for every day.
Need some examples?
- Free to be you and me: Let’s start with US Fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, who by many accounts is most likely the first Muslim to compete in the games for America while wearing a hijab. According to Huffington Post she put it like this: Just like race or gender, religion should not hinder you from achieving your goals. I couldn’t agree more.
- Breaking the mold: It seems every Olympics we find the new Mary Lou Retton (who actually did capture my heart as a little girl back in 1984, I know I’m aging myself here), Kerri Strug, or Shawn Johnson — the gymnast who’s bubbly enthusiasm and all-American charm steal our hearts. This year’s star is Gabby Douglas, who is only the second black gymnast to compete on the US team in Olympic history. And Gabby’s story has been anything but typical. She started gymnastics late, by elite standards, at the age of six after her sister saw her raw talent. Then, when she had a chance to work with renowned coaches, she moved away from home to train in Iowa.
- Golden years: After earning a gold medal on Sunday, skeet shooter Kimberly Rhode has made history by medaling in five consecutive games. She is the first American to do so in an individual sport. That’s 20 years she’s been at the top of the world in her game. The next time you see an ad for some product designed to help you defy your age — the implication being that getting older sucks — remember Rhode. Because age is all about how you feel. So let’s follow Rhode’s example and rock on for as long as we can rock.
- Oh yes, we can: So this one may not be about an American, but let’s not let nationalism cloud our view. Have you heard about Malaysian Suryani Mohamed Taibi, the eight-month’s pregnant Olympic shooter? I’d be surprised if you haven’t. It is without a doubt a first in games history that a woman has competed at such a late stage in her pregnancy. It kind of makes all the hand-wringing about Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy — she’s just the CEO of Yahoo, after all — seem like, well, child’s play. And it puts it all in perspective in a way no other story can. Women are badasses. Being pregnant does not negate that. Get over it. And it sort of highlights what we do best: multi-task. That’s right, we can grow a fetus and compete in the Olympics (or the boardroom) at the same time. Bring it on!