As a kid, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Olympics. My family would gather around the TV night after night and watch the spectacle unfold. I was dazzled by figure skating and skiing in winter and obsessed with swimming and running in summer.
And since this was the dark ages before the Internet, I’d keep my own medal tally like the nerd that I was—and still am—drawing gold medals with yellow and blue markers (for the metal and ribbon, naturally), silver with grey and red, bronze with brown and orange. Forget Leap Year. The Olympics were the event I waited for every four years.
Once again, they have arrived.
As I watched the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (holy jellyfish/dove of peace dance!) I was transported back to 2010 when I was lucky enough to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as a reporter. It was not only a career highlight, but also a personal dream come true.
I think Graham Watanabe, who competed for the U.S. in Snowboard Cross, summed it up best:
“Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That’s what it feels like.”
By the power of Grayskull! Apparently, being an Olympian is like being She-Ra.
It’s kind of what it felt like to attend the Olympics too. What struck me most was this: I was not only watching athletes doing what they do best, but doing what they do better than anyone else in the world. At that moment in time, there would be no faster speed skater, no lovelier figure skater, no more daring snowboarder. I witnessed the pinnacle. And we all get to witness it every four years. That is magical. Almost as magical as She-Ra riding Swift Wind, her winged unicorn.
Olympic Childhood Dreams
How many of us as kids dreamed of being Olympians? I’m guessing a lot of us.
I always dreamed of going to the Olympics someday, albeit as an athlete. Swimming was my sport back then and I was sure I was going to be the next Janet Evans.
Not too long ago, I unearthed a cassette tape I had made on my purple boom box (it was the ‘80s after all) when I was about 8-years-old. Appropriately, it was the backside of a Cinderella storybook cassette. Regular readers know I’m officially obsessed with Cinderella. What you may not know is that I was equally obsessed with She-Ra. Like Cinderella, she is a princess. But she is the Princess of Power! A warrior. And what are athletes if not modern day warriors?
The recording reveals an intrepid young journalist (played by me) “interviewing” an Olympic swimmer (also played by me).
It went a little something like this. Bless my 8-year-old heart, this is an actual transcript of the recording).
Reporter: “This is your host of The Twilight News. Today, we have heard that a swimmer named Karla Kafufa has just won the 20th gold trophy medal ribbon from the United States for the World Swimming Record. And she’s very honored to have this award. And now she’s going to sing a special song for you called ‘Oh Beautiful for Swimmer’s Skies.’”
I then proceeded to warble (and I mean warble) “America the Beautiful” with swimming terms subbed in like, “And crown thy good with brotherhood from pool to shining pool!”
Swimmer: “Thank you. I’m very proud to have this for my collection. I’m going to sing another song called ‘Swimmers on the Move.’”
Cut to me singing a badly made up song with nonsensical lyrics like, “We keep in shape by swimming in the pool. Lap to lap we go from sky to sky.” Cue She-Ra riding Swift Wind again.
Three things are clear from the tape:
1) I liked singing.
2) I liked swimming and dreamed of being a champion.
3) I liked reporting and had a natural propensity toward sports journalism.
Well, I kept singing; I moonlight as a singer with two bands. And while I was a fast enough swimmer to medal at the state level in Illinois, I was no Michael Phelps. But I still swim and compete in triathlons. And I actually became a reporter, who now focuses almost exclusively on sports. Some things just don’t change.
Going to the Olympics as a reporter was, for me, the next best thing to going as an athlete. According to the Vancouver Organizing Committee, there were 10,000 media members from around the world at the games: 2,800 from the written and photographic press, such as myself, and lots of broadcasters. Being one of the lucky few with press credentials in hand kind of made me feel like I was at the Olympics of reporting.
“I have the power!” As She-Ra would say.
I ran myself ragged for two weeks, running from event to event, interviewing athletes, live-blogging competitions, writing features, profiles, news items and more. I barely slept, lived on stadium food and went for runs in Vancouver’s Stanley Park when I could sneak them in.
I did so much and slept so little that I went home with the flu. It was totally worth it.
But this time, I’ll enjoy watching the 2014 Winter Olympics from the comfort of my own home.
My husband asked me: “Do you wish you were there?” Honestly, no. I was working around the clock, getting to bed after midnight and getting up at 3 a.m. to do morning radio spots for the East coast.
But am I glad I went? You bet.
It was, quite literally, a dream come true—much like riding a Pegasus unicorn through a rainbow. Now that would be awesome.
Until I magically turn into She-Ra, I’ll be glued to my TV watching the competition from Sochi. Through the magic of television, we all have the power to do that.