I love the Olympics. It just makes me warm and fuzzy for so many reasons. It is a time where countries from around the globe come together and compete on a world stage in the spirit of sportsmanship. Each athlete is representing more than just themselves—they are representing their flag, their team, their family, their friends, their sport, and simply just the human race. In every Olympics records are broken and the bar to excel is raised just that much higher. It is amazing what the human body can do and endure. Given the proper mixture of training, dedication and skill, we see these athletes do unbelievable things...and also suffer from heart-wrenching defeat. Athletes will train for four hard years just to get that first or additional shot at gold. And then when the time comes to perform it can be over in minutes if not seconds.
These competitions are mental games accompanied by physical excellence. If your mind is not focused you do not have a chance. The mind is a powerful thing. It can push us to do remarkable things, but can also be our worst enemy.
There are so many wonderful stories that come out of the games. I remember watching the 2006 Torino Winter Games. A dude named Frode Estil from Norway was the defending gold medalist in a 30k cross-country event and was favored to win. Immediately out of the gates Estil fell, which caused his ski to break. As such, and in a frantic panic, he and his support team scrambled to get him replacement skis. The crisis got sorted out as quickly as it could and then Estil continued with the race, needless to say, in last place way behind the leaders. With adrenalin pumping, he slowly made up ground and continued to catch up with the pack. And miraculously, in the end, only finished one second behind the leader to clinch the silver medal.
I also remember when distance speed skater, Dan Jansen, had his spirit tested. Going into the 1988 Winter Olympics he was the World Sprint Champion in the 500 and 1,000 meter races and favored to win at Calgary. On the day of his 500 meter Olympic race he was notified that his sister was dying from leukemia. And then a few hours later was informed she had passed away. Distraught, when Jansen did race he fell in the first turn. Four days later in his 1,000 meter race he started off at a record-breaking pace but then fell more than three-quarters of the way through. He left the games with no medals (or even a completed race) and heart-broken for more reasons than one. In 1992 he returned to the Olympic Winter Games but again left empty handed. In 1994* he attended his final Olympic Games in Lillehammer. He finished out of medal contention in the 500 meter race but crushed the 1,000 meter to clinch his one and only career gold medal. The journey to gold took six years longer than expected but he finally made it.
Another awesome story that I remember is of US gymnast Kerri Strug. In the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta Strug was part of the team competition, which of course included the floor exercise, balance beam, uneven bars, and vault. Going into the final rotation the US lead Russia with a narrow margin so it was imperative the US finished strong. For Team USA the final event was the vault and Strug was the last to perform. Some teammates ahead of her struggled with their vaults, which put all the more importance on Strug to deliver. With pressure mounted, Strug sprinted toward the vault for her first attempt, hit the springboard, launched, and then unfortunately under-rotated in her maneuver causing her to fall and injure her ankle. Limping back to the start, she mustered up the courage and confidence to continue. With her coach's vocal encouragement, Strug sprinted back toward the vault, again hit the springboard and launched, and then nailed her maneuver and landing. Her face ecstatic at first immediately turned to signs of pain and she collapsed to all fours in agony. Team USA won gold and for the medal ceremony, Strug's coach carried her to the podium.
The word perseverance is such a great noun. It refers to remaining steadfast and doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It derives from the Latin word perseverus, with "per" meaning "thoroughly" and severus meaning "severe". Together, as perseverus it means "very strict", with the slightly modified version of perseverare meaning "abide by strictly".
In each of the three Olympic stories I referenced above the athletes were met with challenges outside of just their typical competition. In each case the odds were not in their favor, but each athlete continued on regardless and with the fiery drive and strict determination to succeed. And they did. And I love it. Well done, Perseverance.
Now let's scale this back to us common folk. Each of us have challenges every day. It's one of those things that comes with life. Some days are easier, others are more tricky, and others it simply feels like the whole world has conspired against us. "Why me?" we ask ourselves over and over. Well, I have an answer... With each challenge we are given an opportunity to rise up and shine.
In this world we only have one thing that we can control. And that one thing is how we respond. Your life may feel like a train wreck with no hope whatsoever. How do you respond? Or you may find yourself at what seems like an impossible impasse. How do you respond? The choice is yours. And by no means is the "right" choice necessarily going to be the easiest. Enter perseverance...and the ability to continue on knowing it is going to be tough and may take much longer than you want.
To those that wear our gear and support our company I hope you feel like you are doing more than just wearing something cool. I hope you feel like you resonate with our brand—a brand that strives for more. And by "more" I am not talking about capitalism, I'm talking about wanting more out of life, wanting more out of ourselves, and when the path looks long and rough we remain steadfast because success will come.
Keep moving forward and you'll get that medal you're striving for.
* The Summer and Winter Games used to occur in the same year on a four year cycle. In 1994 that pattern was broken making the games every two years, switching back and forth between Summer Games and Winter Games. This explains why Jansen participated in two Winter Games only separated by two years.
(Pictured above is my mom, sister and me at the bottom of the Dave Murray Downhill course for the 2010 Olympic Games held in Whistler, British Columbia)