Faster, Higher, Stronger*

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven. ~Yiddish Proverb

As the Olympic Games comes to a close, I’m struck by the talent of athletes like Simone Biles.

This tiny gymnast captured five medals (four of them gold), and many experts predict the sky really is the limit for her.

I remember taking a segment on gymnastics when I was in high school.

Our teacher thought “young ladies” should know how to carry themselves with grace, and she determined that items like a balance beam, parallel bars, etc. were the vehicles to accomplish that.

Little did she know. Most of us preferred golf, softball, tennis, field hockey … anything where we could take out the frustrations of sitting long hours in class by swinging a club and hitting something!

Still, walking on a four-inch wide slab isn’t easy. Nor is getting up there, getting off, or tumbling while on it. And swinging from two wooden poles or performing floor exercises — both to choreographed routines — aren’t a stroll in the park either.

We like to think we’re all equal. In reality, we’re not.

We don’t have the same abilities, interests, or opportunities.

No way can I do the moves Simone does, even with my gymnastics training (such as it was).

Good thing I don’t have any interest in being a world class gymnast!

I think what matters is that we all have the opportunity to become our best selves, whatever we envision that to be.

Talents are based on genetics and/or training. Music, art, literature, athletics, accounting, medicine, teaching … all start with a spark of interest which, when fueled by opportunity and training, can take a person to lofty heights.

What’s sad is there are still parts of our world where talents aren’t nurtured. Where people don’t have the privilege of choosing to develop a natural ability. Where children spend more time hiding from danger than they do watching or emulating heroes.

And the world is a drabber place because their light isn’t able to shine.

*Faster, Higher, Stronger has been the official Olympic motto since 1924.

24 thoughts on “Faster, Higher, Stronger*

  1. Gymnastics have always been my favorite. I didn’t catch any of the Olympics except a few videos posted online. They are all amazing…the dedication and strength to get there, wow, just wow!

    • That’s one thing I keep mulling over, Suzi. How hard these athletes train for just a few minutes of performance time. And if they mess up — from nerves or whatever — their shot at a medal (and monetary endorsements) flies right out the window. They must have nerves of steel!!

  2. I think that all the time watching the Olympians, wondering how many people out there, if only nurtured, would achieve these records if opportunities and encouragement had been fostered. Sometimes they do find a way, according to their backstories. But, sadly, not all will.

    • It’s a tough one, huh? I’m not ready to give up our freedoms by having somebody pick which activity a kid is best suited for, then train the heck out of them, hoping their performance will be suitable for a win. Still, it would be nice if every kid who showed an interest and aptitude for an activity could find the coach, money, practice time, etc. needed for them to succeed (whatever “success” means to them). Nicely put, DD.

  3. Great post, Debbie! We’re having a debate over here at the moment as to how money should be targetted. For the last couple of Olympics it’s all been focused quite intentionally on those people most likely to win medals, and it’s worked – we’ve had our two best Olympics ever. However, it doesn’t seem to have had much effect at the grassroots level and some people are arguing that we should be focusing the money there to give the maximum number of people the chance to achieve whatever they can, and not place so much importance on winning at the big prestige events. I’m undecided – I can see both sides. Winning at the Olympics certainly boosts national morale. If only there was money enough to do both…

    • What a quandary. Whether to target the “sure win” or put the resources into the “up-and-coming.” I guess we’re all competitive at heart, FF, and winning medals, prizes, money, or fame does give us some sort of bragging rights. Still, I wonder if we’re all not losing sight of the original goal by stressing professionalism over amateurism, in an effort to boost economics and such. I guess there’s no easy answer, huh??

  4. Fabulously expressed post, Debbie! And what you say here is so very true. I’m in absolute awe of the incredible talents these athletes possess. I love the summer Olympics because I prefer watching those categories – such as, summing, diving, and gymnastics.

    I’m sad to say that I didn’t watch this years’ summer Olympics though. My most favorite year of watching the Olympics was the summer of 1984 because that was the year the United States ROCKED in so many categories; especially in gymnastics. In fact, I was glued to the television every night after work.

    “We like to think we’re all equal. In reality, we’re not.

    We don’t have the same abilities, interests, or opportunities.”

    How, right you are. Which is why I so admire and respect these athletes!

    Have a great week, my friend!

    • Ron, I’m always awed by somebody who does something extremely well — whether it’s something I can do or not. Those people running fast, diving off a high board, racing through swim lanes, and riding horses are amazing. So are the gymnasts and all the others. And don’t get me started on the winter sports — no way would I do flips and things off a mountain while skiing!!

      I confess I didn’t watch as much as I typically would (too much on my plate right now), but even catching brief glimpses of these feats was something to behold. Have a super week, my friend. xx

  5. It’s a simple fact that genetics plays a role in athletic ability, and that isn’t always accepted by those who claim that any of us could perform like an Olympic level athlete “if only we would apply ourselves.” I could apply myself from now until the Second Coming, and not be able to do a back flip. Period. End of story.

    On the other hand, I have other abilities — spur of the moment Limerick-creator comes to mind — that are so natural, they require little thought and less energy. As you say, what’s important is identifying our natural talents, pairing them with interests, and THEN getting to work to hone them.

    As for the Olympics? I didn’t watch any, until you mentioned the gymnast and I lokoed up her floor routine. My goodness. They are wonderful, and I’m so sorry that some of the more obnoxious individuals took some of the spotlight away from the true heroes of the games.

    • You are oh-so-right, Linda. No way could I do lots of things these folks seem to consider easy. Then, again, I just don’t have the interest in diving off a high board or running around a track … and doing it until it’s perfect. They probably don’t have any desire to write a novel either, nor can they lose themselves in the written word the way I can. I think that’s why it’s so important for each of us to identify our natural abilities from an early age, determine which are things we’re interested enough in to work hard at, then proceed to do just that. A lot, perhaps, depends on early nurturing. For example, I always thought the figure skaters looked so elegant and effortless as they leaped across the ice, but that wasn’t something my parents prized so no lessons for me. Same with the pony I always wanted!!

  6. This was very well stated, Debbie. I work in some under privileged schools, and I know that these kids could accomplish much if they only had the chance. It’s a shame that many world leaders direct their energy and efforts toward destructive practices when the world would be so much better if resources were directed toward helping and grooming young people for the future.

    • It’s easy to see that LOVE and CARE should be more highly regarded when it comes to cultivating our future generations, Lana. I imagine you know first-hand how few kids get what they need at home to thrive. I’m not sure institutions (whether they be schools, churches, YMCAs, or whatever) can do what should be done in the home; but when it’s left undone by parents, how can anybody turn a blind eye and ignore the problems that creates? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. I cry at the outcome of most of the Olympic events, Debbie. It’s best I don’t watch but I can’t not watch when I have time. 121 gold medals this round is so impressive. I have no doubt that the coaches and mentors of these athletes have a shinING light around them as much as their mentore. If that’s a word…
    Have a great Tuesday!

    • I know what you mean, Audrey. Competition is so fierce for medals, and when one of our favorites finally stands atop that pedestal, it’s easy to be overcome with emotion. Playing the national anthem just adds to the feeling. I imagine they’re relieved when the results come in, but probably a bit sad, now that it’s all over.

  8. I love the last line of your post. The world would be brighter if everyone had the same opportunities to compete. In my heart, I believe the Olympics should support the ameteur first and foremost. Profitability has it’s place, but I don’t think it needs to be the frontrunner at the Olympics.
    I love the competitions and when you watch Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Ursin Bolt, Abbey D’Agostino, Nikki Hamblin, Kyle Chalmers’ (to name but a few) you can feel the motto – Faster, Higher Stronger ring out..Especially when they flash their “I nailed it,” smile!

    • I’m 100 percent with you on the idea that amateurs should be first and foremost in the competition, Kb. I understand why the Olympic Committee changed to allow pros — and certainly some sports probably benefit from their advanced skill levels — but there’s something magical about watching an amateur fulfill his/her dreams!

  9. So true, Debbie. It’s sad knowing all kids don’t have opportunities to hone their talents. I’m thinking of that little boy from Syria, made famous in that photograph of him sitting in an ambulance after an explosion. Know which one I’m talking about? I just want to hold him and give him a hug and tell him life doesn’t have to be that way. It’s heartbreaking. Simone Biles had her share of heartbreak, too. Lucky though her grandparents were able to take her in and help her follow her dream. She’s magnificent! I took gymnastics in junior high, back when PE was standard class that every child had to take. I was horrible at it. No sense of balance whatsoever. But I sure loved square-dancing. My pre-Zumba days, lol. Didn’t care for field hockey. But I did rather enjoy archery and swimming. Come to think of it, I’m astounded by what a robust PE class we were able to have. By the time my daughter was in school, all they did was walk or run around the track a few days a week. That was the extent of their PE. So important and so sad it’s been marginalized in an effort to save money in our public schools. But, I digress.

    • We were blessed, too, Monica, in having a school that focused on the well-being of every kid. We did gymnastics, archery, field hockey, badminton, and other nontraditional sports, as well as softball, basketball, etc. It was SUCH a good outlet, after sitting in class all day. I think many programs like PE have been marginalized — art, music, drama, and so forth. We’re a poorer nation for it, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. You are so right, gymnastics is HARD!! I remember wearing the one piece blue jumpsuit in junior high gym class and trying the uneven parallel bars (ee-gads!!) and the horse???? Please!! The only one I could do slightly resptectably was the balance beam. They make it look easy – don’t they?

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