Who could help being caught up in the excitement of the Olympics? The strength and stamina of the athletes, the photo-finishes, the teamwork — at this highest level of competition is pretty thrilling to watch.
I was struck by the Canadian swimmer, Penny Oleksiak. She won four medals in 2016 in Rio, so was a star even before she got to Tokyo. She won two medals, and all eyes were on her, because if she got one more, she would be Canada’s most decorated Olympic athlete. She failed in her next race, coming in fourth, which just happened to break the Canadian record, but wasn’t enough for a medal. Where she had her final success, and achieved her record-setting medal-count, was as the anchor swimmer in a relay.
In her comments after that race, she said that she was glad not to have placed in the previous race, because the achievement was even better here — “sweeter” was her word — because it was shared with her teammates.
What a selfless thought. The one at the centre of attention pulls her teammates into the circle. The one whom everyone is talking about wants to talk about the others who helped her get there.
To me, this is sports at its finest, and an example of how its lessons can extend beyond the swimming pool or track. No great success is achieved without the support of others — parents, friends, coaches, teachers — and no failure or discouragement is overcome without their encouragement. To acknowledge that only strengthens us, and helps us all move on to even greater accomplishments.
Revs. Bob and Helen Smith
A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, August 7, 2021, edition of Tidbits.