Give Yourself the Gold

The Olympics are over. New stars were born right before our eyes with their amazing victories, and there were would-be stars who saw their moment come and go in defeat in a nanosecond.  Since I grew up as a competitive swimmer, logging hundreds of hours in the pool, going to swimmeets every weekend, and having my life revolve around the pool, I was glued to the set with every swim event in the Olympics.  My husband finally suggested that I should not watch any of the finals in swimming close to my bedtime, since I would practically swim the race on the couch and get so worked up that I couldn’t sleep.  Most people don’t have any idea how many years, how much time, how much dedication, and how great you have to be to make that final cut to the Olympics.

One of my personal heros is Dara Torres, who at 45 was one of the older Olympians.  Her one race was the 50-meter freestyle.  I read that she trained about five hours a day, six days a week for a race that would last about 25 seconds.  In the trials she was touched out by nine-hundredths of a second which meant that she would not be going to the Olympics.  Done, swimming career over, now what? My other hero, Janet Evans, world record holder in many swimming events, also didn’t make the team and was ridiculed in the press for even trying a comeback at age 41.  The press said she has a husband and kids, why bother?  This kind of attitude shocked me, since I was raised with the idea that it was the process, not necessarily the end result, that was important.  Sure it’s great when you win the gold, but for every gold metal there are millions of people, like me, enjoying the everyday victory of getting in the pool to work out for fun and health.  I am on a swim team that has a hundred and fifty members, and even though some compete in Masters Swim Meets, most of us just feel the benefits and enjoy the camaraderie of swimming with each other a few times a week.

Right around when the Olympics were airing, a friend of mine had her own gold medal moment.  My friend Ann Pogue, who was born with Spina Bifida, had a dream of being able to “swim” in the pool at Unity Village.  This is not an easy task when you are in a wheelchair with no easy way to get in or out of the water.  But when Ann has a vision – watch out!  So at our women’s retreat at Unity Village, she confessed to a group of women her dream of being in the water, and with everyone pitching in they moved mountains to make it happen for her.  They got a golf cart to drive her down to the pool, three young studly men to lift her in and out of the water, and this supportive group of women armed with floaties and lots of encouragement to support and keep her afloat.

She bobbed up and down in the water, even allowed us to hold her with her head back, and got moved around feeling the freedom of the water.  Towards the end of her 40 minutes in the pool, her lips were blue but her Spirit was soaring.  She was so determined that this would not be a one-time event, that when she got home she applied for financial assistance to join the local Y and now is “swimming” regularly.

So sure, Michael Phelps won six more metals, and Missy Franklin set some new world records… but in my book the gold metal goes to Ann Pogue for having the dream, asking for support, and dealing with the fears, trust issues, and obstacles that were in her way and overcoming them…

So what would you give YOURSELF a gold metal for today?


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