In the next few weeks, locals will be competing in the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials in swimming, cycling and track and field events.
They will be vying to become one of their nation’s top athletes in their respective sports. No matter the outcome, they should all be commended for their efforts.
Do they have natural athletic ability? I would say most likely, but that has had to be combined with a lot of hard work to get where they are. And make no mistake: For the most part, parents and family of these caliber athletes have had to make sacrifices along the way as well. I’m betting those are sacrifices they would make every time if given a chance.
Will any of these athletes become the next Bruce Jenner? No, not the guy on the Kardashians’ reality TV shows – the one who was arguably the world’s greatest athlete after winning the Olympic decathlon in 1976.
Or will someone capture the hearts of the country and be the next Mary Lou Retton, gracing the cover of a Wheaties box? Those boxes tend to become collector’s items. I think I still have one somewhere in my parents’ garage.
I’ve always liked the Olympics. I think I first started paying attention to them in 1976, mostly because McDonalds had a game where you could win food and prizes depending on how the U.S. team did in certain events, but mainly because of the U.S. facing off against other nations.
That was when the U.S. used amateur athletes across the board. That was part of the pride factor, facing other countries’ professsionals.
And the memories can last a lifetime.
Switching to the Winter Games, I was 12 years old when the underdog U.S. hockey team won the gold medal, beating a dominating Russian squad in the semifinals. It was certainly a different time, being in the midst of a Cold War with the USSR, and it was an uplifting event. Back then the game was televised on a tape-delay basis, and I remember our local anchorwoman coming on during a commercial break before the game was over, promising highlights of the U.S. win. We still watched the drama unfold.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience some Olympic venues firsthand.
In 1985 when I was in high school, the European High School Track and Field championships were held in Munich’s Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately I didn’t qualify in the shot put or discus, but at least I got to help as our high school was the host.
In 1988, when I was in the Navy, I was a part of the security force for the Olympics in Seoul, Korea. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. My ship, the USS Bunker Hill, sat off the coast of Korea during the Olympics in case the North Koreans decided to act up.
One of the more historic venues I had the good fortune to visit was the stadium in Berlin where Jessie Owens won four gold medals in 1936, dealing a blow to Hitler.
Will any of our local participants in the trials make history now or in the future? Only time will tell.