More Than Just Medals
When I reflect on the London Games, the moments that resonate with me the most are not the ones where American athletes are standing up on that top pedestal singing “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” While seeing that always floods me with such happiness and pride, the memories that have impacted me the most include the ones that demonstrate the pure goodness of humanity. The moments that, no matter what country you’re from, are bound to stick with you because they strike something deep within. Take Jamaica’s Kirani James and South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, for example. After competing against one another in the 400-meter dash, they embraced, and exchanged nametags as a symbol of respect. James, the 19-year-old world champion and gold medalist in London, didn’t flaunt his victory, but instead made the double-amputee and “Blade Runner,” who finished 8th, feel important. Through this simple interaction, they demonstrated the true spirit of the Olympics. How about Sarah Attar, the Saudi Arabian woman who competed in the 800-meter race? She came from a country where women’s rights are virtually nonexistent. By participating in the Olympics, she took a stand for women, which was worth far more than winning a medal. She gave her fellow Saudi Arabian women hope, and she is a champion of rare form. With 530 athletes representing the USA in London, it’s far from unusual to see Americans winning medals. Quite frankly, the odds are heavily in our favor. But why does it seem like winning medals has become the primary focus? The question in our minds is often: how many gold medals has the USA earned today? Or how are we holding up in our head-to-head race with China? It’s become all about tallying up the total medal count, and especially the gold. Why can’t it be more about these inspiring events, or about athletes congratulating each other after a race or routine? It’s amazing to see athletes who did not place in their events still be happy for their opponents who succeeded, whether they be from their own country or not. The Olympics helps breaks down these social and cultural barriers, and unites international athletes through their common interests and goals. After all, that’s what the Olympic Spirit is all about. It’s pursuing dreams, rewarding dedication and hard work, putting lesser-known countries on the map, and building friendships with people you normally wouldn’t associate with, outside of playing a particular sport. I think it’s also important to reiterate that only the very, very best athletes in the world participate in the Olympic Games. Regardless of whether an athlete wins a medal or not, it is a huge honor to even have the privilege to attend- to be in London and to represent one’s country by doing what they love. So having said that, it devastates me to see athletes upset about winning a silver medal, and God forbid, a bronze! Being the 3rd best in the world at a particular event is an incredible feat. In fact, by coming in dead last in a competition, that athlete is still better than about 99.9% of the world’s population. We shouldn’t hate on the bronze and the silver, we should be proud. I think that America as a whole has been blinded by the glimmer of gold, and that we need to take a step back and think about the true spirit of the Olympics. It’s about more than just winning medals. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wear that red, white and blue, and wave our flags proudly to cheer on our athletes. We just need to remember that American victories are not all that matter. Kali Newlen is a rising Junior at James Madison University. She’s spending her summer here in Richmond, nursing her sore ankles and looking forward to Fall Volleyball. Go Dukes!