Friday, February 26, 2010

Life lessons in going for the gold

"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
- Special Olympic Motto

Why is it that Olympic athletes teach us so much about life? I could write a book titled "All I really need to know I learned from watching the Olympic Games."

No matter which event is being televised, Olympic athletes offer so many pearls of wisdom, such golden advice that only many years of intense training, sacrifice, victory or failure could produce.

When 25-year-old Minnesota native Lindsay Vonn struck gold in the women's downhill, she noted with confident resolve, "I'm just going to attack every day with no regrets and no fear."

This was after flying down the mountain at 65 mph on two thin long boards called skis. Wow!

From kindergarten on, we are told to believe in ourselves, an adage we strive to internalize. Prior to the Quarter Finals in the 1,000-meter race, Apolo Ohno, with a razor-sharp gleam in his eyes and the corners of his mouth curled into a smile, said, "I'm very confident in my preparations. I know what I have inside of me."

And the other night, I heard one athlete bolt, "No matter how insecure you are, go for it!"

These Olympians have the corner on conquering any fears or doubts that stand between them and the gold, silver or bronze medals they are pursuing.

Perhaps the most profound lesson this year came from the U.S. men's figure-skating gold-medal champion, Evan Lysacek. He had his chance to put down rival Evgeni Plushenko, who offered a valuable lesson on what not to do when you lose.

Admittedly disappointed in the silver medalist's behavior, Lysacek responded by pointing out that we all want to win and that we sometimes get emotional when we lose.

Even with all the mudslinging from the Russian skater, Lysacek said he likes and admires the guy.

The lesson here is that, although Plushenko was questioning Lysacek's gold-medal standing because he did not have a quad in his program, Lysacek did not go there, but rather took the high road.

All of this made me wonder how many parents have required their youngsters to watch the Olympic Games for more than the sport.

Just think how much kids would learn in one Olympic broadcast compared to all other sports broadcasts combined. Valuable lessons on how to win, how to lose, how not to give up, how to be strong and how to practice, practice and practice some more.

Most Olympians battle adversity of one kind or another. Whether they win or lose, they are champions because they faced their fears, they believed in themselves and they did not give up.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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