Back in 1998, with the world gearing up for the summer Olympics, I was assigned to interview a former Olympian who swam in the 1972 Munich games.
The Olympics, she believed, had become something different since her participation all those years ago. It was about drug testing and big corporate sponsors more than athleticism and sportsmanship.
Certainly, the games have changed over the years. Indeed, drug tests and big money rank high in sports stories these days. And, by all rights, this former medal-winning swimmer had some important insights.
But, today, years later, what I see are athletes who still represent something beyond TV endorsements and illegal supplements. What I see are athletes our children can still look up to as amazing role models in a world that can seem lacking in that regard.
Although the athletes want to win medals, nearly all of them talk about the Olympics experience as much more than that. Hard work, sacrifice, friendship, fairnessall of the qualities we as parents strive to instill in our children. The Olympics provide an awesome opportunity for kids to watch people in the limelight who are about a lot more than their respective sports.
Mikaela Shiffrin is one of them. She reinforced her Olympic favorite status by winning her third World Cup slalom event this season in Flachau, Austria last week.
Here’s what she had to say: When my nana tells me that my ski racing is keeping her alive, I think that’s more pressure than any race.
And then there’s Tracy Barnes, the biathlete who gave up her Olympic spot to allow her twin sister to go instead.
The Olympics are about more than just winning gold, or even competing, she said. They are about friendship, cooperation, sacrifice, and a whole host of other things.
So, I’d say that today, all these years later, there’s a lot that’s changed, but still plenty to love about Olympians and what they stand for. Enjoy watching them with your kids. Who knows, they might aspire to shred the slopes like Shiffrin one day. But, at the very least, they’ll witness a few young folks who are capable of super stardom, kindness and good values all at once.
How often do we get to see that?