Once in a Lifetime

Look up. At the light. From the ceiling.

Yesterday a woman threw herself. Some say that she dove. I didn’t see that. I saw her hurtling her body to cross that line first. And she did.

I find people who do not appreciate her effort to be missing the point. She came to win. She was excruciatingly close. I felt excruciated for her. She may have won the race without resorting to a headlong fling and the attendant skinned knees and arms. Maybe not. Shaunae Miller, of the Bahamas, literally put her whole self out there in the 400M. She was there to win, like all the athletes. She went extreme.

Another woman put all she had out there to win. Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan competed in her seventh Olympics. The first was in 1992. She’s 41 years old. For number seven, she not only qualified, but competed well enough to be a finalist in the individual vault competition.

Hers, like all gymnasts, is a skills and math problem. If you have the ability to pull off a very hard vault, your rewards spiral upwards via a formula. More hard = more points. Chusovitina knew that her competition’s knees were younger and springier, but she wasn’t in Rio to observe. She was there to medal. Her strategy ? Do “the vault of death.” Seriously. It’s a vault that her lithe, fresh rivals think is too dangerous to risk. But harder increases point potential. Gauntlet thrown. She didn’t hurt herself, nor did she medal. But Chusovitina laid out everything she had. She didn’t just come to play. She came to win.

I got chills watching Miller’s dive at the finish. I held my breath and found myself on my feet clapping as I saw Chusovitina fly, flip and flame. These, and so many other athletes, are the reason that I watch the Olympic games. To see the determination and the drive of these Beasts. Some are going to win. Some are going to lose. But every athlete is there to reach their goal. Not to try, but to do.

I find myself asking, “Doc, what do you want? What will you do to get there?” Win or lose, make it count. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same. As. It. Ever. Was.

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