Yesterday I watched a Chinese “girl” who was only about five foot tall clean-and-jerk a barbell almost three times her own weight. Then later that night another Chinese girl, about the same height, flew through the air, twisting and turning, and finally landing on the floor exercise in gymnastics. Both were amazing, both were unbelievable skilled and dedicated, both will go home without a medal.
Thousands and thousands of athletes in Athens and only a few hundred medals available. Why in the world would someone do that? Many of these athletes will be at the peak of their performance only this once – this one Olympics and there is no other shot. Many of these athletes have their place in the spotlight measured in seconds. Think of that! Only the top three get medals and at time what separates the fourth from those first three is hundredths of seconds. In speed cycling they time to three decimal points, so the difference could be thousandths of a second between medal and no medal. In archery a man practiced for 10 hours a day, everyday, for the last 15 years and went home with nothing but the experience.
Wait a minute. The experience. They ALL go home with that. The experience is that moment, that hundredth of a second frozen in time forever. The experience is being there. The experience is participation, even though you are the one that gets lapped in the long run. The experience of walking around with passes and tags around your neck, being in the Olympic Athletes ONLY Village, going in the Athletes ONLY places, and getting the Athletes ONLY warm-ups. Every athlete goes home with the experience.
After my six knee surgeries what I miss about basketball is NOT the winning. What I miss is the camaraderie, the “good play”, the great shot, the good move, the sweating and exhaustion, the EXPERIENCE. These athletes compete because they love the experience of competition. It is the journey that is the important part – not the goal. It is the experience – not the medal. Sometimes we forget about that in our life’s journey as well, we spend so much time focusing on the goal, that we forget the experience of the present. Stop and take a minute to enjoy the experience, the competition, and the journey.