Go for the gold

I do not know if anyone else has been addicted to the Olympics this year but I totally have been watching endlessly. As you know, I love sports so this is obviously something I would be drawn too. I cannot help but watch as records are broken. Some are official Olympic records like Katie Ledecky blowing away the competition in the women’s 800 freestyle, or Virginia Thrasher breaking the record in the women’s 10m shooting event, or Joseph Schooling, a fan of Michael Phelps, breaking Michael Phelps’ record in the men’s 100m butterfly. These are all huge feats on their own. 

What I love a little more are the non- “official Olympic records” that have happened. Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win a medal in Olympic competition. Michael Phelps, arguably the best swimmer of all times, breaks a more than 2,000-year-old record to become the first person to win 13 individual gold medals (on top of so many other records he broke). Anthony Ervin, after taking some years off, becomes the oldest man to win gold in an individual swimming competition. Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, became the first man to win gold in the 100m three times. And my favorite Olympian, Kerry Walsh-Jennings, is currently attempting to be the first person to win four gold medals in volleyball (when this is printed you will already know if she has succeeded).

What I love even more than the unique records to be broken are the stories behind the Olympians. There are so many great athletes whose greatness does not only exist on the court/floor/pool/field/track. Many of the Olympians have had to overcome some great heartaches to get to where they are or to become who they have become. Simone Biles, currently the greatest gymnast in the world, was adopted by her grandparents when she was four years old because her father abandoned her and her mother struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. And this week she had to battle a news reporter that refused to call her adopted parents her “parents.” She simply responded with, “My parents are my parents and that’s it.” 

One of the most inspirational stories of the Olympics is the first-ever refugee team. There are 10 athletes who have escaped terrible situations in their home countries to come together to compete for medals. Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president said, “These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.” 

April Ross, the beach volleyball team partner with Kerry Walsh-Jennings, lost her mother to breast cancer when she was a sophomore in college. She says that her mom’s courage during her illness is one of the things that inspired her to keep going in volleyball. After college she played professionally in Puerto Rico on its indoor team where she fell out of love with the sport and quit. It was not until later when she started playing beach volleyball that she came back to the sport she once loved. During a match you will see her tap her chest twice and point up — once for her mom and once for God!

Michael Phelps’ records are known throughout the world. What is also well-known about Michael Phelps are that times that he has made bad choices. At one point in his career he was suspended from swimming for drug use. He struggled to figure out who he was other than a swimmer. In an issue of ESPN Magazine, he told them at one point he was so down and was drinking so much that he wasn’t sure if his life was worth living. After his second arrest for a DUI he admitted himself into rehab. He says that it was in rehab that he found his Higher Power and found meaning in his life and in himself. 

Oddly enough though, the thing that has stood out to me the most this Olympics has been a commercial. While most of what I watch has been DVR’d, there have been a few competitions that I have watched live. Chobani yogurt has been one of the sponsors of the Olympics. In their commercials they state, “You can’t be great if you are not full of goodness.” Now I know the original meaning for this commercial is that their yogurt is full of good ingredients but wow, there is so much more truth in that statement. 

To be the best version of yourself, to overcome these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to be the person God created us to be, we must be full of goodness! In other words, we need to be full of Godliness. Some of the great Olympians first had to be full of goodness to become great. Simone Manuel summed it up best after her record-breaking swim, “All glory to God.” To strive for gold in all aspects of our life first starts with being full of goodness!

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. 


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