Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 18, 2002

Olympics are full of teachable moments

Call the sports doctor – Olympic fever has hit the Pampuch household. And this in a family not exactly full of sports nuts.

We had friends over for dinner to watch the Salt Lake games’ opening ceremony. We waited in anticipation to find out who would light the torch in the stadium. Those of us in the house who were alive in 1980 were thrilled to see the “Miracle on Ice” hockey team given that honor.

My son, who loves the Playstation snowboarding game he got for Christmas, has been watching the snowboarding competitions with interest. He was excited to see Kelly Clark earn the gold medal in the women’s half-pipe competition and elated to watch the Americans sweep the men’s event.

I let Andrew stay up late Monday night – a school night – to watch the men’s medals ceremony, although if NBC would just broadcast the Olympics live to the West Coast instead of tape delaying them, bed-time rule bending would not have been necessary.

My daughter, like most little girls, loves to watch the figure skating. When you’re 6 years old, what’s not to love? Glamorous pelple in glittery dress-up clothes (and lots of make-up) glide around the rink while lovely music plays. Katie tried to stay up to watch Monday’s pairs finals, but couldn’t make it. NBC’s regrettable tape-delay decision means she missed the lesson provided by the pairs judges that being best doesn’t always mean you win.

She also missed the lesson in grace and good sportsmanship provided by the Canadian pairs skaters, who were polite and full of smiles (although they were tearful smiles, to be sure) in the immediate aftermath of an unfair defeat.

The pairs competition also had another lesson – that the only thing in life that you can really control is yourself. You can only do your best; you can’t control how others react to your best.

Maybe that’s what’s so perennially fascinating about the Olympics. It’s chock-full of life lessons played out dramatically on tape-delayed television.

We see athletes, coaches and families who have sacrificed to achieve a goal . For some the goal is to earn a gold medal, for others, it’s just to compete at the Olympic games. We see that many, even most, don’t fully achieve their goals – and yet, they try.

Some of the men’s figure skating short program aired Tuesday night before Katie fell asleep. We watched a competitor fall when trying to land a jump, and as the crowd groaned, Katie said, “But he got up!”

That’s an important lesson – to try and keep trying.

Remember Eddie the Eagle from a few winter Olympics ago, the British ski jumper who was so awful yet undeterred in his enthusiasm for participating in the event? If he was embarrassed by his lack of ski-jumping prowess, he sure didn’t let it stand in the way of the opportunity to compete in the Olympic games.

The female half of the gold-medal Russian figure-skating pair, Elena Berezhnaya, overcame a life-threatening injury and paralysis to compete in the Winter Olympics four years ago won a silver medal. She is an object lesson in tenacity and persistence.

So, for the remaining days of the Olympics, the Pampuch family will be watching the competition and looking for teachable moments, like the one expressed by Canada’s silver medalist pairs skater Jamie Sale.

“We didn’t come here to win gold, we came here to do our best,” Sale said after her disappointing second-place finish. “We were on tonight, we really were. What else can you ask for?”

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