I have to admit that while I am a Summer Olympic Games fanatic, the Winter Olympic Games definitely have a few personal highlights: figure skating, luge, curling (which was never aired this year at normal hours; I could never get myself out of bed at 3:30am to watch the event…sad) and a new fascination for Slopestyle skiing. Not being naturally talented at any of these, or any other events for that matter, my most common response while watching the performances went as such: “That’s INSANE!” Yes, pretty much insane, but this is what these athletes train for–the dream, the passion, the Olympic moment.
During these games, I realized that I sympathized with the athletes who had a hard time performing in their events–not being able to land their jumps and twists, coming in a split second short of being on the medal podium, the emotions of personal background stories of their own family losses…these moments remind you that even the greatest athletes are human. And while there were many memorable moments to celebrate in outstanding performance victories, I believe the greatest victories were evident from the athletes who struggled. They fell down, yet picked themselves up to finish their performance. It showed true determination. True victory.
I was most impressed by the figure skating performances. Now, I have a hard enough time standing and balancing on my own two feet as it is…so if shoes consist of having attached blades, wheels or anything that causes movement–such as skis or snowboards–I don’t touch them. But this was not always the case. Growing up, I did enjoy skiing (I learned to ski at age six and skied through high school years), a little snowboarding (until mid-college days when my balance turned for worse), rollerblading, ice skating (we had a frozen pond out in the back field or we used the ditch across the road), and roller skating (except the last memory, in which I took a fall at the YMCA center leaving me unable to get up on my own and a trip to the ER: thus, it confirmed that my days of moving feet business were over!)
Being somewhat a helpless romantic when it comes to either ballet or figure skating–and maybe combination that this Olympics, due to deafness, I couldn’t hear the figure skating music–I started to think of songs that I would perform my routines to in the event that I was a figure skater. For a short program, because judges score on technical activity, I thought fun songs, such as “I have Confidence” from the Sound of Music or “Linus and Lucy” from The Peanuts would be lively. And the long, free skate program: “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven! It is a deep emotional song…a performance could be so lavishing.
I did perform “Moonlight Sonata” my senior year of high school; not in a free skate performance, but for my senior piano recital. I had been playing piano since the first grade. I had memorized pieces of Bach and Beethoven in the past, but “Moonlight Sonata” was my last. I memorized the music, practiced until I felt secure in the music, and set out for my performance. I am not one for audiences. I tried to calm my nerves. The piano faced the wall. I was staring in white. I started to play with shaking hands. “Moonlight Sonata ” is not a fast tempo music. It is a slow tempo…deep emotions. I let my mind wander for a split second in which I lost my concentration. My mind went as blank and white as the wall I faced.
I stop and turn to the audience. “I need to start over.” I get nice reassuring smiles. By now I cannot get my mind and thoughts to relax. I restart the piece, but struggle in mid-way…again my mind goes blank. I feel a flush flow to my face turning my cheeks red and stinging tears about to drop from my eyes. To avoid crying on stage, I simply get up from the bench, take a slight bow, and return to my seat. My dad whispers, “Don’t cry. They are going to take group pictures,” and gently puts his arm around my shoulders. Too late. Tears abound. No one mentioned my performance. People understood. But I held it against myself: I didn’t finish.
There are days when I ask God how I am to finish the task set before me, when I feel as if my physical body simply is just staring into a blank white wall. Circumstances seem too difficult, uncertainties leave room for doubts and questions of my abilities. I still struggle with wanting to be doing bigger things, but was reminded graciously that if I am faithful in the small, God will reward with more when I am ready. Olympians are not made overnight. They train in the small daily tasks for years…with the reward of a bigger performance than they ever imagined.
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.
~Pierre Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee; “Father of modern Olympic Games.”