I spent hours on end watching the Olympics games in Rio this summer, which is a little weird since I wouldn’t describe myself as an avid Olympics fan. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember a time when I actively chose to turn on the television for anything other than the gymnastics competition.
But this year? This year something changed. I suffered through the entire opening ceremony (the least interesting part of the Olympics for me by far, frankly), but I was all over the rest of it. During the day T-man and Bear would wander through to find me watching swimming, diving, or track and field. BrightSide and I would flip it on at 8:00pm, glued to the tv for gymnastics and beach volleyball, calling the kids over to see particularly cool events.
For two weeks there I became a regular sports fanatic.
Now that I’ve had some time to process everything I have a few observations about my time cheering on the athletes in Rio.
** My competitive streak manifests itself in a certain wholehearted enthusiasm with my kids. I’m an extremely vocal supporter during games and sometimes even practices. It’s not at all unusual to hear me screaming (hey, games are loud) support from the sideline, but this quirk has never carried over to watching sports on tv. Until Rio. Suddenly I was the girl hollering “Stick it!” as gymnasts flew through the air, holding my breath until they hit their landings. I also felt as if screaming “Push!” at the tv would help runners 3,000 miles away dig deep on the final stretch. Apparently my supernatural motivational powers reach over oceans.
** I cannot wrap my brain around these babies who are competing at an international level when they’re only sixteen years old. Sixteen. You know what I was doing at sixteen? Playing high school soccer and serving up movie theater popcorn.
** While there were several events that pulled me right in, none had a gravitational pull quite as strong as women’s gymnastics. I could watch those events for hours on end. Simone Biles and her routines showcased skills of an athlete so incredible she almost seemed inhuman. Aly Raisman tumbled across the floor like an acrobat. That sweet Laurie Hernandez who was full of bubbly smiles and boundless talent. Every single time these young women began their routines I was perched on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, just waiting to see if they’d make it through. (And occasionally shouting, “STICK IT!”)
** Plus what’s up with that platform diving? Seriously, it was the event I was most looking forward to showing T-man since he’s such a wild man on the high dive, but obviously I hadn’t clearly remembered the fine details. He was amazed by the precision, the flips, the turns, the way they sliced cleanly into the water…as was I. But diving off a platform that’s three stories high? Sometimes from a handstand position?! Yikes.
** When I said I didn’t typically get overly excited about sports on tv, I really should have said that I don’t typically watch sports on tv. Like, at all. So the fact that I was up watching beach volleyball at midnight was beyond crazy town for me.
** Sometimes I’d turn on the tv and blink, trying to put what I was watching into some kind of context. Steeplechase – a 3,000 meter race (for humans) involving jumping hurdles, one of which lands the runners in a giant puddle. Trampoline – you read that right, trampoline as a competitive event. Canoe Slalom – the bastard child of downhill slalom skiing and white water rafting. Marathon Swimming – a 10 km race in open water in which the swimmers face riptides, jellyfish, and foul play from their competition (officials carrying yellow and red cards watch for fouls from kayaks). All activities that I had no idea were Olympic events until this year.
I don’t know if I’ll be a die hard fan when the winter Olympics roll around, but if it turns out anything like Rio? I’ll hit the highlights of the opening ceremony and save my viewing stamina for cheering on those athletes.