Posts Tagged ‘Michael Phelps’

I’m an Olympic junkie.  Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter to me.  I revel in the thrill of this global competition and find myself watching things intently that in other times would not draw even a glance.  Trampolining.  Badminton.  Racewalking. Of course, there is the draw the household names, mainly professional athletes like NBA stars and tennis players.  Or Michael Phelps who has made himself a household name in a sport , swimming, that really only has a huge following in Olympic years.  Hard not to marvel at the accomplishments of these finely tuned athletes on this global stage.

But it is the stories of the other participants, those who most likely will never stand on the podium with medals around their necks, that makes these games so special.  Stories of people who have overcome the greatest of adversities to stand equally alongside the household names.  Simply being there and giving their all is a victory.

Today, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa continues the most unlikely of quests as he runs in the semi-finals of the Men’s 400M.  Unlikely, because he is without both of his lower legs,  born without fibulas in both legs.  Running on carbon fiber blades, Pistorius has trained, raced and fought legal battles over a number of years to simply run in these Olympics.  He doesn’t figure to medal or even make the finals.   The legal battles stem from those say the blades give him an unfair advantage which sounds pretty humorous that anyone is accusing a man without legs as having any sort of advantage.  I don’t want to focus on that aspect of this story however.

For me, this is a story about altering our perceptions of our limitations, both physical and mental.   His journey should be a gold medal  example for any of us who has ever sold ourselves short and taken the easier path because of  limits imposed by ourselves or others.  Watching him makes me wonder how many times I have limited myself, how many times I had listened to those who said that I couldn’t do this or that and gave up.

So, I will be watching today, marveling at a man who had the will to follow his dream, as well as wondering at a world of evolving medical technology that allows a legless man to go from a life in a wheelchair to being able to run with power and grace.  In a world that sometimes seems ugly and hard,  that is a huge change in perception.  Makes me believe we might live in a time of miracles if we decide to look at it that way.

In a story  in today’s Miami Herald, Linda Robertson writes about Pistorius’  mother and how her   perceptions changed Oscar:

Pistorius’ late mother, Sheila, didn’t think Oscar would be able to walk, let alone run when he was born without fibulas. But after his legs were amputated at 11 months and he was fitted with prosthetics, she decided not to give him special treatment. Pistorius recalled Sheila, whom he described as “a bit hard-core and no-nonsense,” once telling him and his brother, “ ‘Carl, you put on your shoes and Oscar you put on your legs, and that’s the last I want to hear about it.’ I didn’t grow up thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.”

Put on your legs and run, Oscar.

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michael phelpsThere were a couple of events in the world of athletics and beyond this past weekend that really caught my eye.  First, there was swimmer Michael Phelps’ victory Saturday versus Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly at the World Championships.  Cavic was the swimmer who was on the short end of the stick at the Olympics when Phelps made his miraculous lunge in this same event that kept alive his hopes for the medal sweep that he eventually accomplished.  Cavic sparkled in the semi-finals, breaking Phelps’ existing world record.

But he made the mistake of not keeping his mouth shut and just doing his job.  He was everywhere talking about he was still positive he had won in Beijing.  Even crowing  that Phelps was missing the boat by not using the soon-to-be outlawed plastic swimsuits and would be left behind.  It wasn’t a lot but it was enough.  Phelps came out angry and beat Cavic without any doubts, regaining his world record.  His glares and gestures afterward said it all:

Don’t poke the tiger.

Which brings us to Tiger Woods‘ victory at the Buick Open, where he started slowly then methodically dominated the field.  It was a thing of beauty to see how he managed his rounds and how he could recover from even the worst of shots.  It’s a testimony to his dominance that on a day when he was beating the field by several shots, the television commentator remarked after a good drive off the tee that he had finally hit a good shot.  Even on a day when he wasn’t at his best, he still could prevail.

It’s a remarkable thing to watch on a single weekend two athletes who may easily go down as the most dominant ever in their respective fields.  We’re lucky, those of us who care about such things, to be witnesses to these performances.

Another performance I saw was by Orly Taitz, the crazy Russian-born attorney/ real estate agent/ dentist who is the figurehead for this insane birther movement on MSNBC.  She almost froths at the mouth, she’s so rabid.  I began to wonder about all this fuss and I pulled out my own birth certificate.  The original had been lost years ago and this replacement was from around 1973 or 1974.  It doesn’t list my doctor, doesn’t list the time of birth.  But it’s worked fine for me throughout my life and there has never been any question of my citizenship when dealing with the government.  I wonder how many of us have just such birth certificates and if to nutjobs like Orly Taitz this raises questions of our legitimacy as citizens.  This stuff has got to just stop.

One thing I didn’t see was any glimpse of Dick Cheney.  Where has he gone?  I mean, for a while I thought he was trying to fill the void left by television pitchman Billy Mays’ death.  He was everywhere, all the time.  Then suddenly silence.  I guess the disclosure of a few incriminating documents and the screamed pleas of his legal team that he just shut up finally got through to him.  Back to his subterranean lair.

It’s a shame though- I think he could have done a hell of an ad for Oxy-Clean…

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