My Favorite Stories from the 2012 Olympics · 14 August 2012

Created by Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
In public domain in the USA.

I love the Olympics and the athletes who compete in them, but sometimes I wonder why the media ever started the medal count. The games give us great competitions and story lines. There are winners and losers. There are fantastic games and matches. But when it comes down to it, the least important story is the medal count of countries or individuals.

Both the summer and winter Olympic games have compelling stories. The summer athletes train for years for one race, three to six attempts at a field event, a quick few laps in the pool, or a few games in a tournament. The winter athletes brave the cold while training for their brief moments on the slopes, the ice, or the chutes. Most suffer injuries or personal setbacks on their way to the games. They all have stories. For me, those stories are often the reason I watch the Olympics for they are where I find the heroes.

Regardless of the country or sport, each Olympiad has heroes. Some of those heroes are medalists. Others are merely competitors. But in my simplistic view, they are all winners for making it there and overcoming whatever obstacles they had along the way. My heroes from the 2012 Olympic games were not all medalists.

My first hero did not even come close to the medal stand. She was the female judoka from Saudi Arabia, a country where a woman does not do anything unless given permission from her male guardian. She had the courage to do the unthinkable and outrageous. And she endured the jeers and jabs from those in her own country. She was a hero to just about everybody who read or heard her story.

There were many other stories of triumphs over various adversities. Athletes coming back from horrendous physical maladies or overcoming emotional or monetary setbacks. Athletes who were favorites or underdogs. I loved their stories because, with or without medals, these athletes competed on the greatest of stages after winning over their own circumstances. They came from different backgrounds and countries, they competed in different events, but they were heroes too.

My favorite feel good story was Missy Franklin’s, but not because of her heroic medal count. Or even that she could be the pool’s heir apparent to Michael Phelps. I love her story because she has said her senior year of high school and swimming in college is more important than the wealth she could gain from her Olympic success. Of course, she said that before winning all her hardware, but I am pulling for her dream of staying a kid for just a little bit longer. And I am hoping she can keep her enthusiasm and contagious smile forever.

Of course, nobody’s story is more compelling than that of Oscar Pistorius. The double amputee fought a battle outside the stadium just to be allowed to run. He had to argue that his legs were not the bionic legs of television, but the constructs of human ingenuity allowing an athlete with the heart of a champion to show the world what it takes to compete on the greatest stage. Legs or no legs. We almost did not get to see him race in a final, but his story was too compelling for a teammate’s fall to keep it from being told. Pistorius and his South African team finished last in the 4×400m relay final, but he finished first in many people’s hearts. For some, he went from being an oddity to being a hero who overcame all the odds. But for most, he went from being a double amputee to being another amazing athlete.

Of all my favorite 2012 Olympic stories, only a few of them starred medalists. But they all had heroes. Heroes who overcame the odds. Heroes who fought the good fight on and off the field of competition. Heroes who somehow compelled us to root for them regardless of what country they came from. I love the Olympics for the heroes and their stories. The competition is great and medals can mean much to the individuals and teams, but I for one do not really care about the final medal count. I just love the Olympics and the athletes who compete in them.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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