Loving the Olympics

Published 7:57 pm Saturday, March 3, 2018

If you saw me sometime between Feb. 9-25 and I looked a little worse for the wear, I hope you didn’t worry too much about me. I was simply suffering from a severe case of sleep deprivation brought on by excitement over the Winter Olympics.

Yes, I have been an Olympics-lover as long as I can remember. It started with my unfulfilled childhood love for gymnastics (alas, children who are taller than their teachers in the third grade generally aren’t elite gymnast material) and carried over onto all of the other interesting but rarely televised sports that are so easy to find on television during the Olympics.

Swimming, diving, skiing and, yes, even curling are, in my opinion, far more fun to watch than basketball, football or baseball, yet those are the sports that get televised more. But I will even watch those during the Olympics, especially if the USA is playing. Did you hear baseball is making its Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020?

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Besides learning about interesting and little-known sports, I like to learn more about other countries and their cultures through the Olympics. It’s also fun to watch the camaraderie that exists among all of the athletes at the Olympics. Despite the fact that they are competitors, often they are friends when not competing, even if they are from different countries. And that’s really cool.

I also think it’s fun to see young people survive in the pressure-cooker environment of the highest-stakes sports competition on earth and come out with medals or even just with a greater sense of accomplishment. In one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, bronze medalists were deemed happier, based on their facial expressions right after they learned where they placed and then later on the podium, than silver medalists, because both were envisioning what could have been.

Silver medalists focused on how they almost won gold and could have done just one little thing better; bronze medalists often arrive at the Olympics not the favorite, not the most-talked-about, and unsure of winning a medal at all. A pessimist might say they’re the second loser; an optimist says they’re the third-best in the world at what they do. So if you want to be happier, think like a bronze medalist.

One thing I especially loved at the Winter Olympics this year is that so many children of immigrants, or young adults who immigrated themselves as children, were some of the best athletes representing the United States this year.

Maame Biney immigrated to the U.S. at age 5 and became the first black woman on the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. Chloe Kim, the child of South Korean immigrants, won gold in spectacular fashion in half-pipe snowboarding. Figure skater and bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu, a California native, has Japanese heritage. Easily the cutest brother-sister duo ever, Maia and Alex Shibutani, brought home two bronze medals for ice dancing. Their parents have Japanese heritage. And Nathan Chen, also a bronze medalist, is the son of Chinese immigrants. He made history by landing a record-breaking five quadruple jumps in one of his skates.

It’s great that America can be represented at the Olympics by its best and brightest, no matter where they or their parents are from.