I have loved watching the Olympics ever since my mom bought me my first Olympic swim bag in 1988. I still remember the day that white bag arrived at the house from the UPS truck; my five-year old eyes widened the moment I saw the Olympic rings that adorned the bag. It was at that moment that I understood that the world was bigger than my previous comprehension. That moment marks a moment in which I fell in love with the Olympics and a moment in which the Olympics taught me that things beyond our wildest imagination and understanding are actually possible. The Olympics made the world actually come alive to me.
Suffice it to say, I am watching as much coverage on NBC that I can, with a special fondness for all water sports, in particular, swimming. Twenty years of serious, competitive swimming means that when I watch it on TV I am overwhelmed with pride for the sport that shaped me into who I am today. It is a sport often under-appreciated for its high training demands and needed pool time, but in my opinion, that is one of things that makes it so special. We are a different breed, us swimmers, it is a solidarity of sportsmanship only shared among those you truly understand the sacrifices, training demands, and freedom that comes in the water. The work ethic of a swimmer is a standard that I will always claim and hold true to in my heart, and it is the bar that I measure everyone else against.
Last night, when 17-year old American star swimmer Missy Franklin claimed her first individual gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke my entire body shook in chills of joy. A backstroker myself, I have an affinity for the backstroke events, but that is not why I was so inspired by Franklin’s performance. Moreover, it wasn’t even Franklin’s performance that resonated so deeply with me. Rather, it was her smile, but really, it was more than her smile, it was her spirit. Her smile is not only captivating, it is contagious. When Missy Franklin smiles, the world smiles. I have never seen an Olympian or athlete with so much pure joy about their sport. At perhaps the most stressful moment of her young life, seconds before jumping into the pool with a world of pressure on her back, she smiled. She smiled so big that her spirit shone through. You can tell that Missy Franklin is living the life that she is meant to live. Her joy is the kind of joy that comes from living so passionately and fully in your purpose that your entire body oozes it. Her joy for life is the kind of joie de vivre that was tangible through a television. It is what inspired me last night to want to be the absolute best version of myself possible. I went to bed feeling alive, myself, and excited for life.
We can all have Missy Franklin’s passion; to do so though, we must live in our purpose. We must do that which makes us feel most alive, and we must trust our purpose in the moments of doing that that are the scariest and most unpredictable, smiling in the face of adversity because we know that we are following our heart. If you follow the passions in your heart, your smile will never go wrong.
Thank you Missy for your inspiration. The compound effect of your joy will be emulated by more people than you could possibly imagine, and that is the world-awakening beauty of the Olympic Games.