The Olympics give us so many reasons to celebrate. Most obviously is the champions that win the gold medals, beating the competition to earn glory and a reward for years, even a lifetime, of hard work.
There’s also the celebration of pure physicality. The beauty of seeing the human body, stretched to its limits, on display for the world in the most extreme situations, leaving us to open our mouths in awe. It’s the whirlwind spin of the hammer throw, the unimagineable shin splints of the men’s or women’s floor routine, the breathtaking endurance of the women’s eight.
And then there’s the triumph of the human spirit. The agonizing heartbreak we feel when Elizabeth Black from Canada falls on her landing in the final round of women’s vault, attempts her second one and has to end her dream because of an injury at the last stage. It’s the historic run of Oscar Pistorius 400 meters around a track that may not have earned him a place in the final, but compelled Kirani James, who eventually won gold, to request his jersey in remembrance. There is as much, if not more beauty, in the defeated dreams of these champions than any number of glittering gold medals.
This week, I feel compelled to honor the champions, so many of whom also give in their personal lives. And to honor the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, which capture our hearts even moreso. As the sister of a paraplegic, there’s a sacred place in my heart for those that are able to weather the daily challenges of life without being able to access their full physical capacity. To not only do that, but to push it to the level of worldwide competition inspires me to try harder and be better.