Tag Archives: Olympics

Citius, Altius, Fortius

As a person with feelings, it’s hard to watch the Olympics and not get caught up in the emotions of the competitions. It’s hard to NOT cheer for the underdog, hard NOT to tear up when an Olympian tears up on the podium as her national anthem plays, hard to NOT root for and get disappointed when the US doesn’t take the gold. Even before my husband began taking steps towards his Olympic dream, I loved the drama and exhilaration of watching The Games. But now that we’re here and watching other athletes with paths similar to ours, it’s an entirely different thing.

It’s hard for me to watch these athletes’ loved ones in the stands without wondering if it will be me the cameras are panning to in eight years…(well, assuming cameras are there. His sport is the one they air at 2 am because it’s not super popular.) It’s hard to not wonder if I’ll be biting my nails as he approaches the platform, if our families will be with us or watching from home, if his teammates will be representing the US, or if they’ll have been edged out by the competition.

Four years would be pure luck (and, as Tom was told by one of his Olympic heroes Brian Oldfield, “Good luck, and by that I mean work hard, because there’s no such thing as luck in this sport.”) Eight years is the goal…a dream so far out of reach right now that the host city hasn’t even been chosen yet. Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul hold our hopes, without even knowing it.

I read somewhere today that the Olympics are 95% narcissism and 5% national pride. There’s a grain of truth in that, I guess. I think the percentages are pretty far off, though. But I think that’s a necessary combination. To do what Tom does to his body day in and day out, you have to want this so much for reasons beyond American pride. To spend 4+ hours a day training, 2 hours actively recovering (that means tubs full of ice and painful muscle stripping), and another 3-4 hours watching the Greats, your competitors, your teammates and yourself on Youtube, you have to want this for yourself. You have to be crazy enough to analyze videos from the ’70’s while rolling your muscles out on PVC pipe to reduce the inflammation from today’s workout. You have to be crazy enough to give up not one, not two, but three jobs you love to move across the country to train with the best coach and athletes. You have to be crazy to give up a steady paycheck and a comfortable life for one of little monetary reward and lots of physical risk.

You have to be crazy enough to want the Gold. Or the Silver. Or the Bronze. Or just the chance to march in the Opening Ceremonies, donned in the colors of your country, as millions around the world recognize you for the talent you have and the sacrifices you make.

Or, you must be crazy enough to stay married to someone who wants all that.

To my love: Citius, Altius, Fortius 2020.

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The Secret Second Chance.

And so it begins…

Tom and his team are currently caravaning across the country, literally driving from coast to coast. From California to Carolina, the five-day, almost 3,000 mile trek has started. In a week, he will be in our apartment, and in another week, so will I.

My Farewell Tour, as I’ve taken to calling it, started on Friday with dinner with my godmother. Saturday was dinner and drinks with my good friends from college, and Sunday was dinner and the theater with my mother. This week, my birthday week, is already packed full of lunch and dinner engagements. My days are filled with a crazy work schedule, attempting to prepare for the move and a job role transition, while my evenings are packed with friends and family, visits to my Gram, cleaning, and re-packing and loading boxes.

All at once, and all too quickly, it seems, the time has come for me to leave. I’ve spent almost six months apart from my husband, living with my parents and without all my worldly goods, and in mere days it’s all over. It’s such a strange sensation. In 11 short days, I will be on this journey {Olympics or Bust!}. Something that has been so abstract for so long is now here, tangible, and…real life.

We are so fortunate and lucky to be part of this movement. To say that my husband is part of the first professional team of Olympic lifters is unbelievable. We’ve never really had an opportunity to say no to any of this. How do you turn down the dream of a lifetime?

Ironically, we’ve done it once before. Correction: My husband turned it down once before. A few years ago, I was battling a health issue that was, and still is, pretty unbelievable to think of. I was slowly losing my vision, and my doctor, one of the best in the country, couldn’t figure out why. My case was written up and presented to the best doctors in our area, then in the nation, and then at a world conference, and no one had any answers. No one could say what is was, when it would stop, or if I’d be able to see when it was all over. And then my husband got a call from a two-time Olympic medalist, offering him an opportunity to train full-time at his gym in Arizona. He said no. He knew he needed to stay by my side, help me fight, and be my eyes when I didn’t have them.

This is why I can’t say no to any of this. California? Sure. Carolina? Let’s do it. Timbuktu? I’m sure I’d say yes. When someone gives up their dream for you, and they get a second chance, you take it. You grab it, you hug it, you hold it tight, and you make it happen.

Slowly, my condition stabilized. I no longer notice what I can’t see, and I have a new normal. But it’s not physical for me any more. However cloudy my daily life may look, my vision has never been more clear: the next 8 years of our life will be chasing down this dream, and along the way, I look forward to laughter, adventures, memories, and new friendships.

Here’s to second chances, starting over, and saying yes.

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Glory & Gold.

You guys, I did it.

In the crazy, always thinking a million miles ahead brain that resides in this heavy skull, I shoved off time and remained in the moment.

This was momentous for me. It was, as Oprah would say, an “Aha moment.” No thought or worry that would enter my mind in those seven days would make them any longer or better…only shorter and sad. And the time with him was perfect. It wasn’t all fun. At times it was boring and scary, lonesome yet claustrophobic, but we enjoyed all the time we spent together.

I worried that maybe things would feel strange or awkward, that we would need an acclimation period with each other again. But we didn’t. We picked up right where we left off, but better, more sophisticated. We were more aware of the other’s feelings, taking care not to bruise one another emotionally, for our time to make repairs was short. We were honest and raw, talking about our biggest fears and worries, the physical presence of one another protective and comforting. We whispered about our dreams, the twinkle in our hazel eyes encouraging broad smiles on our faces.

It was surreal, it was short, it was wonderful.

We sat together, shoulder to shoulder, hands clasped as we watched fifteen women fight for two spots on this year’s Olympic team. Hopes were high, then they were dashed. The battles were epic: two women reigned the competition, then another pushed her way to the top, only to be knocked off the podium at the end. Yet another desperately attempted a Hail Mary, a last-ditch effort to literally muscle her way to the Olympics…and in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Watching as two women’s’ dreams came true was exciting. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins, the endorphins almost palpable in the crowd of hundreds. But simultaneously, it was heart-wrenching to watch the women whose dreams died that day.

Four years of work, sweat, pain, blood, sacrifice: will it be enough? Is he killing himself now only to have his overtaxed heart crushed later? Is what I’m bringing to the table enough? Is it too much? Is it worth it?

Without getting into the migraine-inducing technicalities, it’s worth noting that the way this sport operates, no country is guaranteed a spot at the Olympics. They are instead based off of team performances at other world-level events. This year, the men currently don’t hold a single spot. There’s a chance they’ll eek out one in the coming months, but there’s a far greater chance they won’t. So what about the athlete that does everything right? The athlete who is the first to show up and the last to leave, the one with the deepest scars and the strongest muscles? It’s painful to think about: that we could uproot everything, turn things upside down, only to be met with devastation because as a country, we are not strong enough.

I looked over at him, wondering if he was feeling the same mixed emotions I was. And it was evident: the glory, the one shred of hope of making that team. I could see it in his eyes, the gold outshining the green, the fire of an athlete burning.

So we’re doing this. Completely, unequivocably…we’re putting all our proverbial chips in the middle of the table, and looking forward to the day four years from now where we found out if the bet we took was worth it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that either way it turns out, we’ll have no regrets.

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Aren’t you lucky?

My, what good luck you’re having.

Boy, you are so lucky!

I love cataloguing the reactions I’m receiving from so many when I share our latest endeavor. So many exclaim, “My, aren’t you two lucky?”

To a certain extent, absolutely, we are. I firmly believe that an elaborate, delicate sequence of events had to occur in order for us to be where we are now. It’s exhausting to trace back the catalyst for this chain reaction, but here’s an over-simplified journey.

My husband experienced a very, very nasty injury at track practice in college, requiring an ambulance, emergency surgery, and months of extensive rehab. As a part of rehab, his athletic trainer and good friend suggested he join a fringe sport, Highland Games {the big guys in the skirts kilts who throw telephone poles cabers}. He did, and he fell in love with the community, the sport, the potential. There, he met an athlete who had just returned from competing as a professional weightlifter {sound familiar yet?} who was opening a personal training studio in the city where my husband already worked, and was looking for more trainers. A few months later her coach called, seeking leads on any young men who had a throwing background, the ability to personal train, and most importantly, the physical and mental attributes of a professional weightlifter. Did she know anyone who fit that description? You bet she did.

Sure, this opportunity could have found him a different way, but who knows? Without the injury, would he have focused on improving his overall strength and not relying on his {broken} legs? Maybe. Would he have honed and sharpened his mental edge, enabling him to compete successfully on a national level? Possibly.

I remember the morning of the accident as if it was yesterday. Senior year, and I was surprisingly awake and in attendance at an 8 am class. Two missed phone calls from his mother? Something’s wrong. I knew it without even listening to the voicemail. My stomach plummeted to my feet and I could feel my breakfast churning. I don’t remember a single inch of that 200 mile drive, but god bless my friend for having the instincts to go with me. I’m still in disbelief I wasn’t pulled over anywhere along I-88, my car edging close to 90 miles per hour when I remembered that boy lying underneath a scalpel. I arrived just as he was wheeled back from surgery, a total success, the doctor had remarked. I remember holding his gym shoe, bloody and sliced open from the paramedic’s scissors, sitting right in front of his bed for us all to gawk at. In the twilight of anesthesia, he was more upset about his shoe than he was at almost losing a body part.

We laid in that hospital bed and cried, my salty tears falling onto his hospital gown, his falling into my hair. We cried for what was lost, for the terror we felt that morning, for the fear of the unknown. What would the future bring? Would he ever run again, or was the doctor wrong? Would he ever get those All-Americans he had worked so hard for? Did he really have to say farewell to football, his first athletic love?

Who knew that one day that ambulance ride would bring him to the edge of the Olympics? That an eight-inch scar would introduce him to those five gloriously interlocked rings?

Lucky, indeed.

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