Lessons learned while watching the 2012 Olympics.

I decided to take time off from blogging while watching the Olympics.  For two weeks countries all over the world divided their attention among problems at home and the Olympics in London.  Literally billions viewed the sporting events along with the opening and closing ceremonies.  Some countries wondered if this was their year to bring home their first medal, some wondered if their representatives would break records, and others wondered if London could top Beijing in eye-catching, technicolored high-def extravaganza.

Women were highlighted in this years Olympics.  They outnumbered the men and they won the most medals.  The female Olympic athletes showed the world what women can do, showing certain nations that women are more than equal to men.

Yet, the most important part of the Olympics is what the viewers take away from the games.  When I watch anything in any version of media, I try to learn a lesson from the viewing experience.  The lesson I learned with the Olympics was courage.

I believe there are different kinds of courage.  It has a ranging spectrum just like most things in the world.  Nothing can top the bravery and courage of a nation’s troops going into battle whether they do it to defend a nation or to pointlessly satisfy the whims of their infantile leader.  The Olympians come close.

Many sports have various levels of events.  Each one designed to ferret out the best of the best and they have one final spectacle of an event to find the one lone person that can say – for at least a year – that they are beyond compare.  Baseball has the World Series, American football has the Superbowl, gymnastics has worlds, etc.  Then there’s the Olympics to top all sporting events.

The Olympics is a multinational sporting event where countries send their champion athletes to compete under a banner of peace.  Those countries watch with baited breath as their athletes perform.  Some countries will celebrate victory, some will be satisfied with the results, and others will mourn their loses.  Aside from the countries’ enthrallment with the game, there is the one thought on each athlete’s mind as they prepare themselves for what they do best:  The world is watching.

Despite the symbolism of world peace, there is one silent notoriety the Olympics will forever be known.  The Olympics is the world’s stage.  Depending on the sporting event, billions of people from all over the world are literally watching these athletes.

There are likely many questions flying through the minds of each Olympian.  Yet, there is one important question likely to cause the most anxiety:  Will I let my country down?  While winning a medal, any medal, is the ideal outcome for each athlete, there is something worse than not medaling.  That’s making a mistake.  If an athlete makes a mistake through falling or injury, they don’t make that mistake just once for just that day.  In the age of technological wonders and mass media, they make that mistake several times through replays that people will relive for decades to come.  With these worries on their minds, they show great courage in stepping out in front of the world and performing anyway.

While their courage was definitely inspiring in every sense of the word, even more staggering is their magnitude of will.  For some of those Olympians, if they make a mistake, they have the will to turn that mistake into a victory or into something truly exhilarating.

As Americans watching the Olympics, we’re familiar with the amazing stories of Jordyn Weiber and Michael Phelps.  They had tremendous media coverage because of the expectations of a country riding there shoulders.

In purely overly hyped dramatic fashion, the mistakes of Weiber and Phelps were described as devastating and crushing.  Perhaps their mistakes wouldn’t have been so “devastating” and “crushing’ if the country was so forgiving.  Unfortunately, they aren’t.  Despite the thoughts and feelings of a nation and the characterization of the media, Weiber and Phelps managed to clear their minds and correct the so called “travesties” of the recent past.

One story, I didn’t hear a lot of (maybe that’s because I really don’t like watching track and field) is Manteo Mitchell’s broken leg.

Mitchell, 25, was part of the Team USA relay pool after placing fifth in the 400m at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. Earlier this week in the Olympic Village, he slipped on a stairway and didn’t think much of it – until Thursday.

“Three days ago I was going up the stairs and I kind of missed one and landed awkwardly,” Mitchell said. “I got treatment and I was fine. I did workouts, and when I warmed up today I felt really well. I felt I could go 44 (seconds)-low. I got out pretty slow, but I picked it up and when I got to the 100-meter mark it felt weird. I was thinking I just didn’t feel right. As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear it. I wanted to just lie down. It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.

“I knew if I finished strong we could still get it (the baton) around,” he continued. “I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad. I’m pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg.”

Mitchell broke his leg while running in a qualifying race.  The relay team did qualify thanks to him defying the pain.  While some overly left-brained Olympic viewers might attribute this experience to “the power of adrenaline,” I prefer to believe that there was more.  Adrenaline can help keep the man moving, but it couldn’t mask the pain.  I believe it’s the strength of Mitchell’s will that kept him moving.  The article doesn’t mention if the injury was a career ender, logic dictates that his career is over.  Yet, doctors have informed athletes their career was over due to injury before and some athletes manage to defy logic.  Can Mitchell’s amazing will help him run again in four years?  Only time will tell.

There are other stories that were a study of courage and will power, I even loved the stories of sportsmanship (an ideology that most Americans should and don’t practice), yet Mitchell’s story is my favorite.

When a nation looks back on the 2012 London Olympics, hopefully they remember and are inspired by the many athletes that descended upon the world’s stage.  They’ll forget the mistakes overblown by the media.

As the country continues looking for a job, budgeting for their survival, and fighting for their health, may they remember the Olympians who stand up when they fall and continue on when the eyes of the world are watching.

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