Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My Olympic moment

I am preparing myself FULLY for the fact that I am gonna have a flat ass (that'll be a first!) & probably gain 10 pounds these few weeks the Olympics are on, because I am GOING to park it on the couch & watch these Games.  Start to finish, babyyyy.  I have been anticipating these for a good year, always talking about 2012 & when the Olympics finally rolled back around.  There is just something about them... they captivate me.  They draw me in & make me feel patriotic & cry & live through the athletes' experiences and performances & yell at the TV & get into things like trampolining (hey, speaking of, how 'bout my boy Double Dong winnin' the men's gold?!  Dude's the shit!!!) and handball (Scott's been playing for years!) and swimming (Michael Phelps and his ultra low-rise suit those killer abs may or may not come to me in dreams...) and gymnastics (YEAH, GABBY & TEAM USA!!!) and synchronized diving (gonna be honing my skillz on this one) and table tennis (Wang blew it!) and badminton and synchronized swimming (on tap yesterday was "Broken Doll" vs. "Angry Dragon" -- Cal was MORTIFIED!) and OH MY GOD (!), I could go on & on.  I love it all.  (OK, maybe not ALL... yesterday's 3 straight hours of water polo made me borderline suicidal.  Just kidding... but I did actually leave the couch during that stretch.  Ha!)

Mmmmkay, so I have been hesitant to write about my own personal experience and/or ties to the Olympics because I felt like a big, fat braggart (first use of this word EVER -- 2 points for me!) telling my story.  But then I realized that it was like 16 years ago & I am so HONORED to have had this opportunity & it was really f'ing cool, so WHY NOT document it here?  Most people don't even know I did this, even many who are close to me.  It seems like light years ago, yet yesterday all at the same time.
OK, so I carried the torch for the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.  And I can honestly say... it.  was.  AWESOME!!!! 

Back in the day, I used to be a distance runner.  I loved it.  It was my LIFE.  I lived/ate/breathed/slept/idolized distance running.  I ended up getting a division I scholarship to run, and while I was there, my performances slipped, and I was eventually diagnosed with a non-life threatening heart defect.  My running career ended when I was 21, at the very time I thought it would be taking off.  Since I was a little girl, I'd always dreamt of competing in the Olympics.  I busted my ass year-round with the sport I loved, so when my career ended, this was literally a life-changing blow.  Who WAS I besides a runner?  What were my goals for my life NOW?  What would I do if I wasn't travelling & training & studying & researching running???  I literally had to overhaul my ENTIRE LIFE. 

Looking back now, I am pretty sure I was meant to stop running... to find who I was BESIDES just a runner.  To focus on other things... family, my future, work, etc.  It was terrifying, but also, the more time that passed, it was freeing.  

I won't lie to you and tell you that it didn't hurt... that it wasn't one of the most difficult things I ever had to do up to that point in my life -- to give up something I LOVED.  That probably did define me.  That had brought me success & joy & some of the most rewarding moments of my life.  Because it SO did.  SUCKED the big one.  I cried a lot & basically was a real bitch to be around.  It was such a loss of a dream... a HUGE, important dream I'd dreamt since I was 9.  

I had moved on the best I could, figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, gotten engaged, and found new happiness when I was told that I'd been nominated to carry the Olympic torch for the Atlanta 1996 Games.  I was elated and overjoyed and nervous and so freakin' excited... just no words adequate enough to describe how this made me feel.

The below pictures document my experience.  They are clearly NOT DIGITAL, they've been hacked up to fit in a picture album (thanks, Mom!  HA!  LOVE YOU!), and finally scanned in & of course Photoshopped to make my boobs bigger & thighs smaller.  KIDDING!!!  Hope you enjoy these... reliving this has been so beautiful.  Glad I can share this with all of you.

This picture of Yours Truly ran in our local paper, describing the upcoming torch run.

Me & my Dad at the press conference announcing the torch bearers from our area

My friend, Sue Watson, who also carried the torch that day

Getting all checked in, meeting everyone, getting the lowdown of what was to come

(And YES, I DID cornrow my hair.  It took HOURS, but I was sure it would make a statement, be cool (as it was hot as f*ck outside that summer!), and look badass.  Seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime event, so figured I should have once-in-a-lifetime hair?!?!?  Not sure I succeeded in all that shit, but I rocked it hard!  Or at least I'm pretending I did.)

Receiving our torches

Learning how to turn that bad boy on!  You had to push up & clockwise on the bottom of the torch so it would release the gas to ignite the flame!  (NO PRESSURE!)


Getting off the bus at the location where I would receive the flame  ~  I was so stoked to see many of my friends and family there to watch!  

What a tool.  OMG.

The lead car... meant the flame was almost there!

Lighting my torch...

The look on our faces says it all... SO.  F*CKING.  EXCITED!

Every torch bearer had someone who ran by them so that in the event that anything happened to us, the "assistant" could step in and safely deliver the flame to the next person.   

Making the pass-off, after about a 1/2 mile run

Overcome with emotion... I grabbed his hand, teared up, and made the exchange.  SO BLESSED.

What a complete puss... whining about my arm hurting.  That beyotch was HEAVY!!!

(PS -- Nice bowl-cut, Scott!)

It was such a privilege for me to see the excitement in the kids' eyes, too.

My fam
So you can imagine my delight in seeing how the torch was passed on at the Opening Ceremonies itself, days later... I literally was bawling as Janet Evans passed the flame to none other than Muhammad freakin' Ali.  

I will forever be grateful for this experience, the situation which allowed this to be a possibility, and for my own little personal connection to The Games.  I will never forget how special that day was and how all of it shaped my life, prepared me for what lay ahead, and made me remember what is really important in my life.


Pierre de Coubertin (founder of modern Olympic Games)
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."


Amy Kosmalski said...

Amazing memory! Very cool...and definitely brag about it! :)

Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

You give me chills. And tears. Thanks. It was a good time for me personally to see this, how life can be changed overnight, but we can still be blessed.

momsmom said...

Pretty dang awesome! Closest I ever came to the Olypics was being a helper at a local Special Olypics when I was in middle school. I had the privilege of assisting a little boy with hydrocephalus. I always wanted to be an ice skater. Even though the thought of sharp things on ice ( + me) scares the crap out of me.

What happened to the torch afterwards?

Gwen said...

@momsmom - I bought it! My family all chipped in so I could buy it... seems like it was like $350?! But how many chances would I have to buy something like that ever again?! It sits in my office on a wooden stand my Dad made for me. It is fabulous. :)

Smith said...

good post

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