If you are someone who has spent far too much energy these past few days criticizing the Winter Olympics, you can bow out of this article now. That’s because people like you irritate me. Why in the world would you complain about something you can simply turn the channel from? Even worse, why would you give others who love it such a hard time?
For me, the Olympics is a testament to sacrifice and determination that surpasses any other sporting event. That’s because you have to beat out far more competitors to be world champion, and sometimes you have to do it on your own dime.
Such is the case for alpine skier Wiley Maple. Following injury, he didn’t have an official spot on the U.S. ski team, so he paid his own way to World Cup races at a cost of around $30,000 to get his shot in South Korea. To make the extra money, he painted houses last summer and delivered food for a restaurant — not quite the sometimes exotic life of a top football or baseball player making their way to the top. Even while in Pyeongchang, he has to make sure his limited three pairs of skis stay in good condition since he doesn’t have access to the U.S. ski team “shop” that has staff to keep equipment intact.
Then there are the unlikely heroes like the first person to win gold for the U.S. in South Korea. Seventeen-year-old Red Gerard took the top spot on the podium in the snowboarding slopestyle competition. Do I know anything about snowboarding slopestyle? Of course not, but how fun it was to see these X-Games competitors cut into the pow and tear down the rad course, bro. The commentators truly used some of those words.
It’s those that are excited to be at the Olympics the most that I enjoy watching. The cutest of these is Maame Biney, the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. Unless she is in the middle of competition, that teenager has the biggest smile on her face and looks like she is having the time of her life. Makes sense, since on her Olympic profile page it says in high school she was known for being way too happy all of the time. Oh, and by the way, she wants to be a chemical engineer. Atta girl.
That’s the other point of the Olympics I love. Many sports within these and the Summer Games have no lucrative professional opportunities for the athletes, so they have to look at life beyond these two weeks of glory they spent their whole lives working toward.
So when people tease about Olympics competition not being a “real sport,” I challenge their own sports fandom. I contend you can’t be a fan of one sport without supporting the idea of all sports. And if you aren’t inspired to root for these Olympians based on their struggles to get there, or by historic moments like North and South Korea marching together in the Opening Ceremony, then you’ve missed the whole point of the Games.