February 14, 2014

The Real Heroes at Sochi. {Video}

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I’ve been enamored.

Mostly with the figure skating, that’s just my thing. We’ve got them all DVR’d. My four-year-old, Opal and I have made a study out of the men’s freestyle long programs.

I look for: who allows their personality to beam forth and who, in contrast, is so focussed on technique that they offer their heart only in dribbles. Who has the mastery of experience and who has the—often incredibly satisfying—naive freshness of a bird who’s just leapt from the nest.

Opal looks for: who wears the sparkliest ensembles and has the best music.

She acts out the skating performances. She loves when the skaters fall (as four out of the five of the men did for the freestyle skate) because she likes to reenact that, too. Often, she’ll ask for me to rewind the fall so she can execute the trip or stumble with more precision than she tries to copy the jumps and twirls. (She often pops back up with a sloppy-wide grin, which is a tad different than how it plays out in reality.)

But what Opal is the most intrigued with is what happens when the skaters are finished, when they skate off the ice, cover their blades and reach out for someone to hug.

Jason Brown, 19-year-old from the USA, won the award for most hugs received. He is clearly a loved human being. His fellow athletes patted him, squeezed his shoulders, offered him all sorts of affection as he waited for his scores.

Kevin Reynolds, 23-year-old Canadian, appeared to be painfully shy. He barely reciprocated the hugs he got and it seemed as those who were in his environment were emoting for him by proxy. But the love among his peers was still apparent.

And then there was Evgeni Pluchenko, the 31-year-old Russian skater.

Opal said, Why didn’t anyone hug that guy, mama?

This got me thinking about the people behind the scenes, the network of support for the Jasons and the Kevins and the Evgenis to achieve what they set out to achieve. Without the loving support—dedication, loyalty— of parents, coaches, teachers, friends, family, the story of every one of these Now-Olympic athletes would have wound up with very different endings.

The hours upon hours of practicing—nobody could do that on their own, in a vacuum. The sacrifices, the challenges, the self-doubt—who was there to pull them out from beneath the weight of these?

At the Academy Awards in a few weeks, Hollywood stars will go on and on about the people who helped them get to where they are—granted, it doesn’t always make for the best speeches, but I appreciate the gratitude—and yet, we hear very little of the magical hearts and minds that reside in the shadows of the cascades of Olympians.

The following video illuminates this notion precisely, with a focus the magic that can happen with the love and support of moms. I have yet to watch it without crying. Now, when I look at the Olympic athletes, I no longer see them-as-individuals—I see them in the midst of a landscape of supporters.


Here’s to the folks who are stalwart supports of the winners, the losers—and everything in between.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

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