Will the Rio Olympics Restart Our Collective Hearts?

Our family’s preparation for our trip to the upcoming Rio Olympics are underway. We have made the trek to REI. We bought mosquito repellent hooded jackets and pants. We learned that we can wash regular clothes with chemicals filled with DEET to ward off blood thirsty insects.

As I begin to fill my washing machine with loads of clean clothes and DEET, my mind wonders and my mother instincts kick in. Should we even go to the Olympics? Will the Olympic’s bring the world together in sport and harmony for 15 days, or will it be a catastrophe as predicted by so many news outlets, most recently by a July 1st New York Times article?

Every time we open a newspaper or watch the news we hear about a world in ruin – the Zika virus, Military Coups, Britain exiting EU, Orlando, Pokemon Go accidents, Nice – - the list goes on.

The Olympics open in less than two weeks on August 5. What kind of experience awaits the world? Will the world continue to spiral in demise or will it rise?

Even if we don’t have political leaders or national events that inspire us, thank God for artists and athletes.

Katy Perry just released the official NBC song “Rise” and hopefully, like the paddles used to send an electric shock to help restore the heart’s rhythm, the song and the Rio Olympics will restart and reset our collective hearts.

“This is a song that’s been brewing inside me for years, that has finally come to the surface. I was inspired to finish it now, rather than save it for my next album, because now more than ever, there is a need for our world to unite,” Katy said in a statement. “I know that together we can rise above the fear – in our country, and around the world. I can’t think of a better example than the Olympic athletes, as they gather in Rio with their strength and fearlessness, to remind us how we ALL can come together, with the resolve to be the best we can be. I hope this song can inspire us to heal, unite, and rise together. I am honored that NBC Olympics has chosen to use it as an anthem before and during the Rio Games.”

I remain hopeful and I pray – - – Rio will reveal a world on the rise – filled with sportsmanship, courage, peace and love.

I look forward to bringing reports from Rio in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. . .

Katy Perry – Rise (NBC Olympics video)

 

Team USA: Swim It to Win It

China may dominate table tennis and the over-all medal count, but swimming is as Ameri-”can” as apple pie thanks in part to a boy from Baltimore named Michael Phelps and the next generation he has inspired. In London this summer, Team USA garnered 30 medals overall in swimming (16 gold), while China won only 10 swimming medals (5 gold).

Michael Phelps came to London with a heavy load. He was carrying around the weight of 6 gold and 2 bronze medals won in the Athen Olympic and 8 gold Olympic medals won in China.

On Day 1 of the London Olympics, Phelps swam the 400-meter individual medley. Surprisingly, Phelps failed to win, place or show – coming in 4th well behind USA team member Ryan Lochte who came in first. You could see he was sad when he exited the pool and his broad shoulders were a bit slumped. According to a London2012.com news article, after this first race Phelps said, “I am a bit frustrated. I’m not feeling that great. I just want to put this race behind me and move on. It’s not the start that I would have liked to have but I’ve just got to move up. I have a bunch of other races and hopefully we can finish a lot better than we started. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Things went from sad, to bad when that same day team USA came in 2nd losing to France in the 4 times 100 meter freestyle relay despite the fact that they were in the lead for most of the race. Phelps also suffered another set back when he came in 2nd in the 200m Butterfly.

The slump didn’t last too long; Phelps and Team USA literally swam their hearts out throughout the rest of the games. Dana Vollmer was one such swimmer. She managed to garner 3 gold medals including one world record in the 100 m Butterfly with a time of 55.98 and an Olympic record in the Women’s 4 times 200 m Freestyle relay with a time of 7:42.92. Winning gold medals is no small accomplishment, but when you consider the fact that Dana had heart surgery in 2003 to correct a serious heart condition and has a secondary that can cause her heart to stop at random, then those 3 gold medals are more than incredible. Vollmer is forced to carry a defibrillator with her in case of an emergency but said, “ I would rather die swimming than not do it at all.” (London2012.com siting Washington Post, August 9, 2004).

Phelps managed to put his frustration behind him and made history again when he became the first person to win the same event (the 200 IM) 3 Olympics in a row over the span of 12 years. He also became the most decorated Olympian of all time with 20 medals after he finished his career with the victory with the 4 times 200 m freestyle.

On the same night Phelps won his final individual gold medal in the 100 m Butterfly race, 15 year old newcomer and Team USA member Katie Ledecky won gold in the 800 m freestyle. During the race, I was sitting next to Sid Cassidy, a long time Coach at St. Andrews in Baca Raton Florida. Cassidy noted, “It is fantastic to be here to witness the incredible Phelps and watch him close out his career with style, then on the other end of the spectrum see a 15 year old rookie take the baton and open her career with a historic win.”

In addition to the 15 year old, amazingly, the second most decorated athlete of the Olympics with 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal is the young 17-year old Missy Franklin from Pasadena.

Regardless of the medal count, I was most impressed with how the Olympic swimmers inspired my own children. While we in the Aquatics Center one night watching the races, my 11-year-old informed me that he decided to forego playing football in the fall and opt to swim instead. He also insisted that we visit a local London public pool so he could work on his form because “every second counts.”

When Michael Phelps looks back on his career and retires to “travel the world”, I hope he knows that he won much more than medals these past few Olympics, he won over hearts and taught us to dream big, dive deep and swim it to win it!

Our Uniforms May Be Made in China, but Hopefully Team USA Won’t Fade to China!

Soon the whole world will be in London, England watching with the Olympic games. Thanks to modern technology, you don’t even need a ticket to see athletes compete toe to toe and head to head wearing uniforms made in China!

This summer’s Olympic games are exceptional already. For the first time, the U.S. Olympic team will have more women than men, with 269 of the 530 spots on Team USA going to women. The USOC released its official roster Tuesday, and CEO Scott Blackmun said the female majority was “a true testament to the impact of Title IX,” the law that increased opportunities for women in sports, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

My son is sad that the men’s soccer team failed to qualify, but my daughter is glad – In the USA, soccer has gone to the girls! Thank goodness we live in the USA and not in Saudi Arabia where, up until this year, women have been excluded from competing for their National teams.

Team USA will take center stage wearing “Made in China” apparel with the big Ralph Lauren Polo Logos, instead of clothes made by good old fashion American workers, but I guess it could be worse. Spain’s uniforms were designed by Bosco Sport, a Russian company that is doing uniforms for Russia and Ukraine. Let’s hope that even if our athletes wear uniforms made in China, they won’t fade to China in the games. All is not lost, and it appears that Ralph Lauren has agreed to make future Team USA uniforms in the USA!

Regardless of the gloom economic and weather forecast, the Olympic spirit is in the air. For two weeks, we will all be swimming, running, jumping, kicking and simply playing together as individuals, teams, families and citizens – united in our love for a good game or righteous race when athletes leave every bit of themselves on the court or in the lane. It is a thrill of seeing dreams comes true and people doing more than is humanely possible. The Olympics also help us look beyond our backyards, our borders and see the whole wide world on a more intimate level.

I have been fortunate to visit Olympic villages in Athens, Salt Lake, Vancouver and Beijing.

Ten years ago, just after the 2001 terrorist attacks, I witnessed Michael Phelps, the Wonder boy from Baltimore, win Gold medal after Gold medal swimming in Athens. In China, I was able to see Michael Phelps win a few of his 8 gold medals, but was in missed his last gold medal because of security lines which lasted over an hour. I also had a big fall on the great wall, which left me in a wheel chair. At the airport, it was difficult to wheel and carry my luggage at the same time. A young woman in line offered to help me. This young woman turned out to be Katie Ziegler, a USA swim team member who had participated in the Olympics and was on her way back from grueling losses. I am happy to report that both Phelps and Ziegler will be swimming again for Team USA.

I look forward to being able to visit the Olympic games again this summer. The rain coats and umbrella’s are packed – Fee Fi Fo Fum, ready or not London here we come!