To me, the best moment of the 2008 Summer Olympics didn’t involve a world record or an amazing play. It didn’t even involve a competition.
The defining moment of the Olympics came before an event even started. It occurred before the swimmers even got in the water for the women’s 50-meter freestyle semifinal.
The race was broadcast live late on a Friday night, when many viewers had already tuned out for the night…and it came moments after Michael Phelps’ 100-meter butterfly event, when he tied Mark Spitz’ 7-gold medal record in a single Olympics in one of the most unusual finishes ever.
Even still, the ladies race was hyped-up because it involved 41-year old Dara Torres swimming her 50-meter semifinal. As Torres came out to swim her event that evening, she behaved in a manner inconsistent with personal preparation and focus. She started walking behind the blocks, talking to the other swimmers, and gesturing with her hands to hold off or stand down from the blocks. It was not the traditional focused demeanor of an athlete ready to swim. After talking to and motioning with her hands to the other swimmers, she walked behind her competitors to the side of the pool and spoke with the meet referee. At this point, the TV announcers were commenting on her odd behavior and how she was losing her focus on her event.
Moments later, the swimmer in the lane next to Torres, Swede Therese Alshammar, came rushing out from the locker room and raced up to the starting blocks. It turns out that Torres knew Alshammar’s suit had torn moments before the event and asked the other swimmers and the meet referee to delay the start a few moments so her opponent could change her suit.
I couldn’t recount the story to friends and family without tearing up.
That was the Olympic spirit at work. That was, to me, the Olympic moment of the 2008 Summer Games.
But, what is it about that situation that resonated so emotionally with me?
Torres put fair competition above winning; she displayed an uncanny amount of poise and maturity, and she followed through by doing the right thing.
But again, why so compelling?
As I meditated on that question, the answer came more in the form of questions. Do I put fairness above other considerations in my relationships with family, friends and co-workers? Do I show poise and maturity in dealing with difficult situations? Do I do the right thing when faced with challenging circumstances? Do I see beyond myself?
To be honest, I can’t answer "yes" to those questions all of the time. But what an awesome reminder it is to see someone looking beyond herself, especially in the most self-centered moment of an individual Olympic competition.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish