Good Call: Ordinary Olympians

Claire Fahy
Sports Editor


Although the Olympic Games have evolved since their mythological founding by Hercules and Zeus, their participants are still widely viewed as gods. When I was younger, I idolized Olympians whose battles captivated my attention for a few summer weeks every four years.

As I have gotten older, the athletes’ halos seem to have dimmed. My favorites have disappointed me and I lost my enamor with the Olympics’ great stars. Their fall from Mount Olympus however, has helped me to focus on the true point of the games.

Michael Phelps made a splash in my life when I was 10 years old and became my hero in the 2004 Athens Olympics, the first games that truly captured my attention. Phelps seemingly burst into the international swimming scene, winning six gold and two bronze medals, all at the age of nineteen. I took up swimming lessons soon after, promising myself that in Beijing in 2008, I would stand next to Phelps as a member of the U.S. Olympics swim team.

Just a few months after his success, Michael was arrested for a DUI, causing cracks to run through his heroic statue.

Four years later, I was still on the other side of the TV screen, watching as once again Michael Phelps made a splash on the Olympic stage — this time breaking the record previously held by Mark Spitz by winning eight gold medals in a single Olympics. My dream was renewed, as was my faith in the Olympic god that was Michael Phelps.

A few months following this history-making performance, Michael was pictured in a British tabloid smoking marijuana. These were human mistakes, and Phelps was not supposed to be human — he was meant to be so much more than that.

My mistake was not in being inspired by Michael Phelps’ feats, but in tying those aspirations to the success of a man who was, at the end of the day, a regular human being.

The divine factor of the Olympics is not the athletes themselves, but in the way they can make us believe in ourselves. When I watch beach volleyball star Misty May-Treanor elevate for the kill, or Shawn Johnson nail a balance beam routine, I start to believe anything is possible.

If these seemingly ordinary people can push themselves to such greatness, then so can I.

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