Saturday, February 15, 2014

Winners Before the Games Even Began

Before the Winter Olympics even began, there were two athletes who were gold medal winners in my book.  For 15 years now, twins Lanny and Tracy Barnes, from Durango, Colorado, have been competing in biathlons.  Both sisters competed in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, but only Lanny made the team for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  Tracy and Lanny both tried out for the 2014 team to be held in Sochi, but this time only Tracy qualified.  Because of illness, Lanny missed 3 out of the 4 qualifying races in Italy and did not make the team.  In interviews, both men and women stated that an athlete has to be 100% to perform at the level that is needed for a successful biathlon race or trial.  As soon as Tracy realized that Lanny was sick, she knew it would be tough for her to qualify for one of the five spots on the Olympic team with so many great athletes competing.  That’s when Tracy’s Olympic Gold Medal idea began to take root.   As was their tradition after every biathlon, Lanny and Tracy took a hike to reflect on the event.  Tracy knew that Lanny was having a great year training and competing and would fare better in the competition.  She didn’t want her dream and goal to end there.  On their walk, Tracy told Lanny that she was declining her selection for the Olympic Biathlon Team.  Since Lanny had qualified as the first alternate, that meant that Lanny would now be part of Team USA Women’s Biathlon Team for the Sochi Olympics.  Against all protests, Tracy refused to change her mind so now Lanny will be competing in her third Olympics.  And Tracy has earned a gold medal for love, selflessness, and sacrifice.

Shaun White, the Flying Tomato, is also competing in his third Olympics in the men’s halfpipe.  He received the gold medal in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and is preparing and training for his third medal in Sochi.  Originally, Shaun had also qualified to compete in a first time event in the Olympics, slopestyle.  He was a heavy favorite to medal, but Shaun withdrew from the competition in order to exert all his time, attention, and focus on the halfpipe.  No matter the outcome of his race, that made him a winner in my book.  Shaun was willing to give up something great and prestigious in order to give his time and attention to what was best.  No matter the outcome, he wouldn’t have to second guess whether he had given his all to prepare and compete in the halfpipes.  And I think his mother deserves a gold medal for ever letting him try snowboarding the halfpipe in the first place much less compete in that event for years, especially since as a child Shaun survived two open-heart surgeries.  Shaun now gives 8% of his income to St. Jude’s Children’s Fund to help other children have a chance at life, too. 

Although Shaun had the highest score out of all the halfpipe preliminaries, he came in fourth place in the finals and did not medal.  Even with a loss, he was still a winner.  Shaun was interviewed multiple times after his loss. Upon hearing about a 10 year old boy who had been given tickets to come and watch him compete through Make-A-Wish Foundation, he jumped the fence around the interview area so he could speak with him and wish him well in hopes that his cancer will stay in remission.  Shaun White realizes that life is about much more than competing in and winning a gold medal.  Sometimes the most important Olympic moments come without a medal being awarded.

Gold Medal Lessons to ponder and apply:  in humility, value others above yourself and be willing to give up great things in order to pursue what’s best.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
I Corinthians 9:24

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