Monday, September 12, 2016

Reflection: 2016 Olympic Games

Citius. Altius. Fortius. I remember first hearing these three words in a movie I watched about running legend Steve Prefontaine roughly 15 years ago. The narrator of the movie, who was also playing the role of Bill Bowerman (founder of Nike) in the film, stated that these words were the motto/mantra of the ancient Olympic games. They mean “Faster, higher, stronger,” and again the narrator reminded viewers that it does not say faster higher and stronger than others, just faster, higher, stronger. 

When I think about this mantra I find myself inspired. To me it is a reminder to not be satisfied with the status quo, to not become complacent, to not settle into mediocrity. It is a reminder to daily press forward and to bring my very best into every arena in life. And we celebrate this mantra every four years by bringing some of the most incredible athletes in the world together to compete, and to celebrate the fact that they have daily pushed themselves to bring their very best into a global arena.

For me, every day of the Olympics is filled with inspiration. Whether it is from watching Usain Bolt continue to excel as the fastest man in the world, watching Michael Phelps add to his medal total, celebrating Simone Manuel, Maya Dirado and others earn their first, or smiling as a West Virginian and WVU student earned the first gold medal, these events make me want to bring out my very best as well. Adding to the inspiration is the thought that this year for the first time there is a refugee team. Often forgotten by the rest of the world, these athletes remind us that regardless of our circumstances, we are all capable of pushing through to bring our very best to the world around us. And if these stories are not enough, I am amazed at what technology has brought into these Olympics. The silver medalist in javelin is a Kenyan who learned and refined his skill from watching YouTube videos. 

In the first Olympic games I can remember watching, fellow West Virginian Mary Lou Retton shocked and captivated the world with her gold medal performance. While it was amazing to watch, at the time my aspirations for life really didn’t expand beyond my zip code. I wanted to be a better student, and a better human being, but how that would translate to how I lived my life did not take shape for me until much later. Now, in these Olympics, there is actually a website to connect aspiring future Olympians to pursue their dreams and get connected to an Olympic sports program. Now, the learning journey is just a click away.

But for most of us in the world, the closest we will come to the games is a television or radio broadcast. We will watch and listen intently and cheer for athletes from our home country, athletes who have won our hearts and respect, and/or the entire field of competition for the milestones and benchmarks they have achieved. How can we bring this Olympic fire into our own hearts, into our own communities, and into our own families? 

I believe the answer is in the Olympic mantra, citius, altius, fortius. If we can hold off looking to our right and left to see how we are competing with others, and focus on the interior competition, I believe we can see greatness blossom. Too often, each one of us are plagued with self-doubt, with wounds from the past, and with fear of failure, and so we never really bring our best. What would happen if each one of us brought forth our best effort each day into each area of our lives? Of course I know there will be days that each of us falter, days in which we do not bring our best, and days in which our best is not quite as good as the day before, but that just gives us an opportunity to practice resilience, to dust ourselves off, and to push forward again like Mo Farah in the 10,000 meter race for the gold.

During the Olympic season, and indeed during every season, may we each strive to bring our very best effort and our best selves to the world around us so that we can look back at the end of the day and say that we gave it our all, and left nothing back.

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