Confession: I love the Olympics.
I know I’m not alone in that. Watching the most talented athletes on Earth accomplish incredible feats somehow manages to unite the world. It renews our faith in what humanity can accomplish, especially when we discover stories of hardship leading up to a glorious win.
We see some hint of ourselves in them. We think, If that person can overcome incredible challenges to win a gold model, surely I can score that promotion/earn that degree/_______.
But, for me, it’s not all about the winners. Because when all eyes are on the frontrunner, I’m cheering on the last place one.
I watched some of the qualifying trials for swimming last month and I couldn’t help thinking about them—the long shots, the ones who know they won’t make it to the Olympics or to the medal podium but give it their all anyway. They know they’ll be in the bottom, but they dive in wholeheartedly.
Compared to an average human, they’re immensely talented, but to the world they look slow because they’re swimming (or running, etc.) next to the fastest people in the world.
Everyone loves the medal winners, the people who achieve supremacy in their sports. They’re celebrated for their dedication, their commitment to training, their first-ever feats that knock down world records and expand our understanding of human capabilities.
They certainly deserve our respect.
But I want to take a moment to offer my respect to those who land at the bottom, who know their times can’t compete with the medal contenders. They give everything before the unblinking eyes of the world, even knowing it won’t be enough. They race for the love of the sport, for the celebration of their countries.
While the medal winners represent the best of human ability, perhaps the opposite end of the scoreboard represents the best of the human spirit.
So here’s to you long shots, the lovers of your sports, the proud representatives of your countries, the ones whose stories will go mostly untold. You dwell in the shadows of legends, nearly invisible as you push yourselves to your limits.
I see you. I celebrate you. And I will always cheer you on.