So, everyone, are you all tucked out from the Olympics? As much as I love watching the Olympics every four years (or two years if you factor in the Winter Games), I admit I feel a sense of overwhelming exhaustion when the final day of any Olympiad rolls around. Watching so many hours of the action and hearing all the news from Rio for 17 days straight can be so overwhelming.
But there is also a bit of a letdown feeling on that final day of the Olympics. You’ve gotten so used to seeing anything and everything from Rio after 17 days, and when you see that cauldron extinguished, you can’t help but think, “Aww! That’s the end?” Whatever feeling one gets on that final Sunday, it feels weird when you get up Monday morning, turn on the TV, and realize that The Today Show is suddenly no longer giddy about whichever Olympian accomplished whatever feat by using any kind of ability in whatever event.
Whatever feelings of exhaustion or loss on the day after the Olympics end, I bet not a lot of people, even the most ardent of Olympic fans, will realize the gravity of the moment: No matter how the 11,000+ athletes performed in Rio, and whether they took to the medal stand or missed out, their performances are now a part of Olympic history, right alongside those who took part in the first modern Olympics in 1896. Theirs are experiences that they can tell everything about to their children and grandchildren, who can pass the stories on down to their descendants. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?
Naturally, the better an athlete did at Rio, the more cherished their story will be. That goes for any athlete anywhere, including those from right here in the great state of Wisconsin. By at least this count, twenty-three athletes with one tie to the Badger State or another participated at the Rio Olympics. Six of those athletes took to the medal stand, and three took to the top step with the gold medal. One of the nicer of the three gold-winning stories was that of Gwen Jorgensen. She was born in Waukesha, which is just to the west of Milwaukee; she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was part of the swimming, track, and cross country teams; and had a part-time job at an accounting firm in Milwaukee.
Gwen is also a triathlete, although she didn’t think of herself as one when a scout from USA Triathlon came calling. But Gwen took the plunge, so to speak, taking part in the 2012 London Games, where a blown tire led to a disappointing finish. But that finish appeared to motivate Gwen to do better, and she left the accounting job behind to devote herself full-time to training. She has now become a world-class triathlete, winning 17 races, 2 world championships, and… wait for it… the Olympic gold medal in Saturday’s women’s triathlon. She completed the 1.5-kilometer swim, 38.5-kilometer bike ride, and 10-kilometer run in 1:56:16, becoming the first American, male or female, to claim Olympic gold in the triathlon.
Gwen accomplished her goal of claiming the gold, and I bet many in the Badger State are proud of the Wisconsin native. You can read about Gwen’s accomplishment in this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and this recap from the Associated Press; the AP also has a sweet pre-race sidebar here about her husband’s role in her triathlon career.
One of the nicer things to come out of any Olympics, outside of true sportsmanship and the such, is love (“…exciting and new…” oh, sorry). I had mentioned in this post that two women on Great Britain’s field hockey team, Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, became the first married couple to play on the same team at the same Olympics. They topped that by becoming the first same-sex couple to medal at the same Olympics, and the first such couple to claim gold together, as the British field hockey team won the gold at Rio.
Then there is also the thrill of love leading to marriage, or at least a marriage proposal. I shared in that same previous post the video of a volunteer at the Olympic rugby venue proposing to her partner, a member of Brazil’s women’s rugby sevens team. There were at least a couple of other marriage proposals at the Rio Olympics, including the story of another British athlete, race walker Tom Bosworth, getting down on one knee at Copacabana Beach and popping the question to his boyfriend.
It was after his race walk in Rio (where he finished in 6th place with a record time for a Brit) and his marriage proposal that he had a great interview with BuzzFeed. In that interview, he connected his “happy, open, personal life” as a gay male with his success as an athlete. “Because I’m so comfortable in my life and I’m so lucky to have a partner and family,” he says, “and so many friends round me, I can be myself. And maybe subconsciously that changed more than I realized it would.” It’s a great interview, and you should really check it out. Congrats to Tom Bosworth and the other out athletes who took part in the Rio Olympics for their performances and successes.