Monday, July 30, 2012


Kim Rhode, a skeet athlete, became the first Olympian to win medals in five consecutive appearances at the Games. I didn't see the competition, but I saw an interview with her afterward and was impressed--not a strong enough word--WOWED by the fact that she hit 99 of 100 targets. She's clearly an athlete, but beyond that, she's a champion. She also struck me as a really nice, likeable person, who posts recipes on her blog.

Watching coverage of her on the podium also made me realize how biased I am about what athletes should look like. Ms. Rhode is not ripped. She's got an athlete's reflexes and peripheral vision, and yesterday she proved she's the best in the business.

I watched the women's gymnastic qualifying competition last night, and was impressed--no, WOWED by their strength, grace and precision. When Jordyn Wieber didn't qualify, for the simple reason that each team is limited to two gymnasts in the all-around, though she came in fourth in the overall standings, my mother's heart broke. I so wanted to tell Andrea Joyce to get the microphone out of her face already, and let her go off and have a good cry. In retrospect, the replay showing her toes gripping the balance beam to prevent a fall told me how bad Ms. Wieber wanted it. I'm rooting for her to go for the gold in the individual events and to do everything she can to help her team win.

As strict as gymnastics' rules are, there is still more margin of error for them than there was in yesterday's skeet competition. I noticed form breaks and bobbles and wobbles that were by no means fatal to the overall performances. Who am I to criticize? Balancing in yoga poses is hard enough--I can't imagine balancing on a four-inch-wide beam four feet off the ground while doing flips. . . I thought they were all amazing.

But to hit 99 of 100 targets? That's otherworldly. Ms. Rhode missed one target in the qualifying round, where each athlete aimed for 75 targets. I wonder where in the qualifying competition she missed that one target. To someone who like yours truly who is easily thrown off balance by anything less than perfection, I'm sure in Ms. Rhode's place I would have talked myself into missing some more targets. Because after all, who am I to believe I can be perfect?

That's what separates the champions from the rest of us. Champions are just as flawed as the rest of us, but in that time and that place and that medium they have the will and the preparation to be the best. To put in perspective how big Ms. Rhode's  achievement is, the silver medalist hit 91 targets, while the bronze medalist hit 90.

So bravo to Kim Rhode, bravo to Jordyn Wieber, and bravo to anyone who tries to be the best at anything.

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