Friday, February 21, 2014

That Olympic feeling

One of the great pleasures in being a writer who covers mostly high school sports is getting to see the sheer looks of joy that kids tend to get on their faces when they accomplish something unexpected or reach a goal they have been working for their whole season or even their whole career.
That moment when an underdog team lifts a championship trophy over its collective head, surrounding the team captain who’s been there through the good and the bad and serves as the beating heart of his or her team, that moment is hard to beat. You see the relief, joy, excitement and thrill, all in one simple look, all in one simple motion.
Often times, words can’t express what they are feeling, but that look on their face pretty much says it all.
As an athlete, you go through a large range of emotions in the course of a season, or in many cases, in the course of a game or match.
I’m not going to pretend I know what it’s like to win a championship in anything, but I have seen many kids win championships in my many years doing this job. I’ve seen kids that have done nothing but win championships most of their careers and I’ve seen kids who sneak up, surprise the world around them and take something that wasn’t supposed to be theirs. It’s always fun to see, no matter how it happens.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to see a lot of people perform on the world’s biggest stage. I’ve seen the best US alpine skier of all time (Bode Miller), I’ve seen the next big thing in alpine racing (Mikaela Shiffrin), I’ve seen the tried and true Olympic veteran (Kris Freeman) and the girl continuing to climb in the ranks in her second Olympics (Leanne Smith). But I have to say, the thing that I get the most joy out of, the thing that makes me realize just what an experience this must be, is the people there for the first time, the people that may not have medal chances, but are competing in the Olympics, competing on the biggest stage in the world, competing to be the best they can be.
The smiles on the faces of those athletes can’t be erased. They are beaming ear to ear, excited to be across the finish line in their first ever Olympic competition.
I saw that in alpine racer Julia Ford of Holderness and freestyle skier Annalisa Drew, a New Hampton School grad and Loon Mountain skier. They didn’t win medals, but you couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces. They were at the Olympics, competing under the bright lights of the Olympic spotlight, representing their country and having the time of their lives.
In many ways, I feel like I identify with those type of athletes. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything of this magnitude and the experience is all a bit dumbfounding. The fact that I am here, in Russia, watching the best athletes in the world compete, is truly amazing to me. So when I see those smiles, those wide eyes, I imagine that’s a little what I look like… Or at least a little what I looked like when I first got here. My eyes aren’t so wide anymore, mainly because they keep falling asleep.
But either way, this experience has been for me a lot like holding that long sought-after championship trophy, the crowning moment of a season (or career) spent working hard and pushing oneself. And it’s a wonderful feeling. I know the smile will be there for a while.

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