, , , , , , ,

I’m starting a new week of gratefuls, because the Olympics are over — and it’s not just because of that Spice Girls reunion.

I’m grateful because it seems like the exuberance of the Games spread. More people seemed to be in a good mood these past two weeks. I wanted to believe it was the spirit of the Games that pumped up the public mood. Perhaps in America, people were just grateful to have a brief interlude in the toxic election campaign.

Thinking about the Paralympics at Terry Fox memorial, Victoria, B.C. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

I’m grateful to have seen more athletes competing than I expected, especially the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. I’m grateful for the example the gymnasts set for other young women, in this obesity-plagued country. I’m grateful for their grace and perseverance and dedication.

I’m grateful to be introduced to Gabby Douglas. I learn more about joy in struggle every time I hear her honest assessment about the toughness of training. Her smile was one of the best features of the entire Games.

I’m grateful to see Usain Bolt prove again why he’s the fastest man on the planet. I’m not so thankful to have heard all his boasting, but when you’re a kid training in impoverished Jamaica, perhaps it takes a very loud voice to remind the world about your roots, your struggle, and your place/your country’s place in the world.

I’m grateful to have learned about Ashton Eaton, the most accomplished athlete at the Olympics, and the most under-appreciated. He’s an Oregon native, born here, trains here, and seems to have nurtured that humility here. I’m so grateful to know Eaton through his gold-medal victory, that I’ve been reading up on decathlons. Learning about his training and other achievements, I’m even more impressed by Eaton than I am by Bolt or Michael Phelps. Humility in sports, as in life, is a virtue.

I’m grateful to have seen so many women competing at the Olympics — especially those from Afghanistan and other novices from Muslim countries — and to laugh at male commentators droning on about “the year of the woman” at the Games. When I read about the torment Tahmina Kohistani endures just to train, I was grateful for her courage. Young women like her prove why this could be a century of the woman.

In my house, the Olympics spurred better efforts at exercise, which have nothing to do with competition, and everything to do with better health and pure joy in life. Seeing so many world-class athletes performing at their peak has been a daily incentive to move, to push myself more, and to add more minutes to my hikes, despite 105+ temps.

I’m working on ways to improve my workouts. I lost 3 pounds moving more in the past 2 weeks, so that’s an Olympic after-effect I’m determined to build on.

I’m grateful to learn that others are pumping up their activity too, inspired by Olympians. I’m cheering a friend who’s training for her first marathon.

Looking forward, I’m grateful for Oscar Pistorius and for the global debate he ignited on whether an athlete with disabilities has an advantage over able-bodied competitors. Just hearing all the whinging about his carbon fibre prostheses makes me more hopeful about public interest in the upcoming Paralympics. It makes me more hopeful about interest in the accomplishments of people with disabilities, and perhaps even more interest in their needs and their ongoing struggle for civil rights.

I’m sure that world interest in Pistorius will spur more curiousity, everywhere, about Paralympians too. Even if mainstream media don’t cover the Paralympics — Aug. 29 to Sept. 9 — I believe more people will be checking online reports.

Watch for Canadian Jaye Milley, another athlete who deserves world attention.

The world-class cyclist says, “Can’t is not a word in my vocabulary.”

I’m starting a new week of gratefuls for athletes everywhere; I’m grateful every day for those who show me how to kick that word ‘can’t’ out of my vocabulary.