Olympians Around Us

Boxing, cycling, swimming, diving, gymnastics, weigh-lifting and track are just a few of the events we’ll hopefully be watching at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics if the pandemic doesn’t force another reschedule.

I don’t know about you, but I love the Olympics. I’ll be glued to my TV watching, in awe, the athleticism of these young men and women, who have devoted 4, 5, 10 or more years of blood, sweat and tears into this one moment. Besides the events, the pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies filled with color and sound is amazing. The patriotism is overwhelming, especially for me, when I see the red, white and blue being raised and our anthem played as our athlete receives their gold medal.

For whatever reason, the Olympics do, for a brief stretch of time, what no government or politician can do – it unites the world. When the political climate is ‘charged’, like the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, most of the world stood and cheered when Jesse Owens took home four gold medals and set three world records. The world again was stunned when, in 1980 at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union calling it the “Miracle on Ice” and still again when we witnessed an unforgettable moment in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games when American gymnast Kerri Strug, with tore ligaments in her ankle, nailed her vault to beat the Russian team and secure a gold medal for team USA. Breathtaking. And just when you would think it couldn’t get any better, American swimmer Michael Phelps broke a record at the Beijing Summer Olympics by taking home eight medals in eight days and at the conclusion of the 2016 Rio de Janerio games brought his career total to 28 medals, 23 of which are gold. These grand and memorable moments are in the history books for all time and, for me, etched in my memory.

There’s another ‘Olympics’ that takes place every day, everywhere and every year – all you need to do to see it is take the time and look around. The game is survival and the competitor is life.

You’ll find these Olympian ‘athletes’ are all ages, sizes, races and nationalities and are right outside your front door. My ‘Olympians’ happen to be ‘senior citizens’.

I played 9 holes of golf with a woman who apologized for playing slow. You see, she had a chemo treatment the day before and she was a little tired. This ‘Olympian’ is 93 years young.

Some of the other ‘Olympians’ I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and learning from since I moved into a retirement community, are a 78-year old who cycles daily, an 85-year old who swims for at least a half-hour 3 times a week because that all she can do with 2 artificial hips and 1 knee. Another 75-year old walks 3-4 miles a day, every day with pain that would bring even the strongest to tears. All of these ‘Olympians’ demonstrate the physical and mental strength necessary to take on their ‘life’ competitor 24/7…no fan fair, no pageantry, no medals…just true grit.

“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”

Abe Lincoln

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