Jessica Sieff: Olympics go from iffy to inspirational with record day

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jessica SieffFeb. 17 was a great day to watch the winter games.

Wait, let me start off by saying, I don’t speak sports.

I don’t watch basketball games or football games because I only see the game in terms of one group of people running to the opposite side of the room or the field as many times as they can before time is up.

And it just doesn’t do anything for me.

Even when I was a kid, I couldn’t get through a game of “Horse”- you know, the game where one person shoots a basketball into the hoop and then the other person has to shoot the ball into the hoop from the same spot and if you miss the shot, you earn a letter and whoever spells out horse first is the loser?

I got an “H,” and a “O” and a – thank you very much I’ll take my graham crackers and peanut butter on the couch with some “Sesame Street.”

My poor older brother … He’d try everything, even bribery. One game for a dollar win lose, just play all the way through. Three letters later … I handed his dollar back and happily went in search of a Popsicle.

So I’m a little surprised myself how utterly seduced I’ve been by these winter Olympic games.

There’s something a little different about Olympians. That’s why they’re Olympians.
Maybe it’s knowing they’re a crop of the best athletes in the world. Maybe it’s seeing the absolute best compete against each other.

Maybe it’s the way in the name of competition all ideals melt away and countries friend and foe walk the circle together.

Maybe it’s the pretty shiny medals.

And there’s something uniquely profound about the winter games. Maybe it’s because the athletes compete against brutal natural elements. Hard, unforgiving ice, breathtaking heights and frightening speeds.

Maybe it’s the pretty shiny medals against the white backdrop.

Whatever it is, these games, even with the technical mishaps, the sometimes puzzling opening ceremonies and the fog and the rain, have been like a spray of fresh snow in the face.

It’s more than just the sport, it’s the stories behind the athletes, the dreams that started in childhood that turned into determination and later – to sheer force of will.

It’s the evidence of passion.

When she slid past the finish line, the rush of the moment practically jumping off the screen, Lindsey Vonn had reached a pinnacle of what she’d been working for.

The injuries, the roughness of the track, the wind and water and force of gravity were all a matter of element.

That kind of passion is marked by an unwavering focus. Immediately following her win, Vonn recognized that dedication, hinting to time missed with family, time set aside solely for her sport, for her skill and her dream.

It takes a lot of guts to put it all down, seemingly ordinary things that amount to distraction.

But that’s what these athletes do. And when they do, they soar through the air, slide down a hill with unimaginable speed, twist and turn in a matter of seconds, landing firmly on their feet, cutting through ice, racing so low to the ground anyone else would fall.

As I’ve watched Team USA provide some of the most inspirational moments of these last few years I couldn’t help but feel like when morning comes, when the coffee is drained from the cup and the door slams behind me, the competition has started.

Some days feel just like a practice.

Some, like the final run.

Maybe we’re all athletes. Competitors at the sport of being the people we are, the husbands and wives, friends and brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. We are fierce competitors in our business and our art and our fields.
There are bumps in the road. There are losses. There are days that feel like they’ll be ours but we crash and we’re out and our time is meant for another day.
And when our day comes, when it’s our turn to hit the track, fight for the gold – I think if we can walk away with just an ounce of what Vonn was feeling yesterday in Vancouver, we can say we really have won.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if we got a pretty shiny medal in the end.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for the Leader Publications. Reach her at