Olympic Anticipation

Posted on July 10, 2012

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What happens when a dream of yours actually comes true? I mean, really comes true…

My bedroom growing up was a tiny little room used as the families’ baby room. One of my earliest memories of this room takes place when I was roughly 7 years old. I took the small (like 10 inch) t.v. from the kitchen up to my bedroom along with the rabbit ears that received the channels. It seems like hours I toiled with those things, James running down to the kitchen to grab more foil until the snow slowly started morphing into outlines of bodies. Those bodies then started wiggling into a skiing motion. The only channel we could get enough to watch through the blizzard of poor reception, happened to be a cross country event happening at the ’88 Calgary Olympics.

When you’re 7 and 10 year old, as we were, simply having a television in your room was cool, but having a TV you could actually (sort of) watch, was possibly the coolest thing to ever happened to us. I remember he and I laying on my bed all night watching this competition we barely recognized, on a TV we could barely see, listening to sounds we could barely decipher… it became a dream.

Sometime toward the end of 2010 I shot a message to a friend of mine I met in Korea:

“Louis- How’s the snow? I’m jonesing for a ski trip- Whistler??? Quick Question… What are the chances I could crash on your floor for a few days over the Olympics? 1 in 10, 1 in 1,000,000???”

“Wick- 1 in 1.”

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I attended an amazing amount of events, skied some of the best terrain in the world, had press access to areas and interviews few had because I was writing for The Expeditioner, and became NBC Montana’s first blogger about my experiences there (unfortunately it looks like they just pulled my pieces to make way for the London content- perhaps I’ll post some of those pieces here in the near future).

With the London games quickly approaching, and the hype reaching a fever pitch, it’s difficult not to reminisce about Whistler and Vancouver. One memory I will always have with me from the Olympics is the possibility of competition.

I was at the Cross-Country ski venue watching a sprint one early morning. It was a smorgasbord of nations all decked out in their colors, flags waving the the frozen air, faces (even bodies) painted in support of their athletes. The atmosphere was electric; think game-day at Lambeau Field with XC trails. I became familiar with countries I didn’t even know existed before–quickly, describe Estonia’s flag (didn’t think so).

During that event, I nudged my way into a position on the fence lining the finely manicured tracks. This was the SuperBowl for these athletes and for many of these countries. I found myself surrounded by Norwegians, draped in the red, navy, and white of their homeland. Their excitement was intoxicating; I would describe it as more joyous competitive than anything I have experienced anywhere in the States. It was a new style, a new way to support the athletes and sport. It was true, pure, and unadulterated support-hard to wrap your mind around at first.

“I am American, but my heritage is Norway… Can I cheer with you?”

“Of course, of course! You are Norwegian! One of us!” Yelled a man and his son. It reverberated from all around me; hugs and back slaps from anyone within arm’s reach. They welcomed me, for no other reason than to cheer. Outside of that Norweigian restaurant in Disney’s Epcot Center that Grams insisted we go to, I’ve never felt closer to my ‘roots’.

The race was spectacular–an adjective I never thought I’d use to describe cross-country skiing. The crowd erupted when the athletes were in the starting line, shouts of positive support from all around-not one belittling or negative comment. The gun went off and the crowd followed. Never have I been witness to actual pinnacle of physical exertion shown by the racers. The athletes, poetically gliding around turns at incomprehensible speeds, passed in a blur. The drive in these men and women’s eyes seemed to transcend sport; fueled by the dreams of youth and the hopes of their countrymen. The effort they showed was massive.

As many of the athletes crossed the finish line, across the oval from where I stood, they collapsed into a pile of hope, exhaustion, and even vomit, at times. Coaches ran to their aid, helping them off their skis and into a tent. The very point of human exhaustion, the peak of physical possibility was on displayed. A sport in which I often dismiss as a mellow recreation, at best, earned my utmost respect that day.

“You are American! You are racing now! Look! Look! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

My neighbors looked at me with youthful exuberance, as if the called America home. Without prodding or persuasion, the Norwegians I had met minutes ago started cheering just as loud for the American as they had just done for their athlete. Were they cheering with me or for me? I didn’t know. I learned in that moment was how great competition can be, how great fans can be, what the Olympics can provide for people from vastly different sides of the earth, and just how lucky I was to be in that moment.

It turns out I grabbed a photo of my Norwegian friend and his son-I didn’t think I had-regardless, they were the instrument of this memory. A memory I will remember every couple years the Olympics make their way back into the world’s eye.

Bring on London!

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