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Lessons from The Winter Games in PyeongChang

So, I’ve been watching the 2018 Winter Olympics, which means I want to use my favorite Olympic story for this week’s blog.

It is very hard to decide which story is best. I have seen so many highs, lows, and inspiring moments.

You guys all know CrisMarie’s Olympic story, right? I believe most of you know when I met her I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to an Olympian up close. But I was stunned at her reaction to my simple question:

Me: “Hey CrisMarie, tell me about the Olympics. What was it like?”

Her response: “Don’t ask me about that – we lost – I was a loser.”

Me: “Look, you need to do some work at that storyline – seriously – you think you are a loser, really?”

I still shake my head at that and, sadly, I know that is not uncommon among elite athletes!

Thankfully, CrisMarie worked to change her storyline (Click the link to read her story). I love hearing her now share all the amazing experiences and lessons she learned both from winning and losing. Plus, she has a great story about the day her team got to go ‘shopping’ for their Olympic gear. (Maybe she’ll write about that at some point.) Once she worked on that loser narrative, she found a way to embrace and make much more of her Olympic experience.

Needless to say, as result, the Olympics have a special place in our household!

Now back to these Winter Games.

I love watching when someone does something extraordinary and wins the gold – especially when it wasn’t expected or when it was so expected that the pressure is tremendous and creates it’s own challenge.

But my favorite moment to date (and there is another week) was watching the Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic stun the Alpine world with her SuperG run for gold.

There are a number of reasons I loved her story. One reason is that Ester is both a snowboarder and a skier. She was told she had to choose one sport or the other and she basically told her coaches – if that is what you expect – I will find another coach because I am doing both.

So that is pretty awesome. Too often in life we are told to specialize or pick a niche for our business. Or someone says to pick a sport, pick a genre for writing or painting, as if somehow narrowing down the options makes it easier. Sometimes that choice works. There are people who are designed and wired to choose and focus. But that isn’t everyone!

I loved that part of Ester’s story.

But there’s more. I loved that she acknowledged why she kept her goggles on for the postrace interviews. She never anticipated she’d be on camera and hadn’t worn make-up.

This is a funny and sweet story. It also is simply insane that a woman believes she needs to have her make-up on after winning the gold.

As a skier, I wear the helmet, the goggles and I get that when you take that stuff off you can look pretty wild. I have wondered why so many of these Alpine experts look great in the interview. I thought it was the glow of awesomeness. I think I will hold on to some of my story even though I imagine now some of those expected to medal do indeed get their make-up in place before that last run!

Side note: Do you think any of the guys do that? I seriously doubt it though I will say – Shaun White’s hair did look very styled even after the gear came off. Of course, all those tears and emotions would have washed off any make-up.

Back to Ester. Ester gets the top nod from me as the first week’s best storyline because she reminded me of so many important life lessons. I loved watching her face when she saw her time. You could see her disbelief. She even thought for sure they would change the final standings well after the announcement. I loved her innocence and her joy.

Wouldn’t it be great to hold on to the innocence and joy as we become adults and not just focus on winning or looking good? So often that can seem like joy gets lost as the stage gets bigger. This is true in athletics and I think in life.

I have also enjoyed watching other athletes who seem to just be shining. Like figure skater, Adam Rippon and Whitefish’s own freestyle slopestyle skier, Maggie Voisin. I really loved how Maggie was thrilled, hugging her friends even after one had placed her out of the medals. She was expected to get a medal and she may well be disappointed, but damn I hope not. Those of us here in Whitefish will welcome her back home as a champion – I have no doubt about that!

There was another story that just solidified the idea that winning isn’t always about being on the podium. The shirtless Tongan, P. Taufatofua, didn’t just finish his cross-country ski race. He also shared why he decided to take up cross-country skiing just twelve weeks ago. The clip of his finish and the way he cheered on the other skiers finishing behind him was amazing. People laughed about his decision to compete until he explained why he became an Olympian. He said, “I want young people in my country to know that they can do anything, AND I want my country out in the world.”

If you ask me, that is what the Olympics is and should be all about.

There will always be extra focus on the gold zone or the sadness in finishing with a silver, especially here in the United States. But that isn’t why I watch the Games and especially why I don’t just watch the primetime coverage.

The Olympic Games are a mirror for life. Yes, go for the gold – but don’t let whether you reach that podium ever become more important than how you live, love, and laugh getting there. Don’t worry if you don’t make the primetime show. Your story is significant wherever you play it out!

Live your life, not for a gold medal, but to be able to say you lived fully. You can choose to focus on one thing or spread your talents all around. Remember, life really isn’t a competition against anyone else. It isn’t even a competition with yourself. Yes, life is a game. But winning isn’t the only viable option. Playing fully is really the point!


Photo Credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/Getty Images


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