For two weeks, we hold our collective breath, rooting for our favorites, bursting with national pride.
But what captures us most?
It can be something small. Like chicken legs.
Allyson Felix had won silver in Bejiing and Athens in the 200 meter. She was gunning for gold in London and had some underdog in her favor. But learning that her high school classmates taunted her with “chicken legs” (it was not a compliment) stuck in my heart and made her the one to watch. I’ll buy the Wheaties with her face on the box.
Or, a calculated risk that could end a career.
Aries Merritt, winner of the gold for 100 meter hurdles, retrained his starting foot. Not sound like much? It’s the athletic equivalent of retraining your dominant writing hand. He spent eight months strengthening his weaker side and relearning how to start the race so that he could finish faster.
Sometimes, it’s about breaking barriers.
Wojdan Shaherkani had a simple goal: to compete in judo. Which meant respecting the modesty of her religion and the demands of her sport by wearing a bathing cap instead of the hijab. She stoically endured the spotlight (and slurs) that came with her historic participation as a Saudi Arabian woman. Victory didn’t come with a medal.
Other times it’s about humble beginnings and big dreams.
David Rudisha won gold for Kenya in the 800 meters (the first to set a world record without a pace setter). With no family money or deep-pocketed sponsors, he trains in a small village on dusty, rutted, unpaved roads. His coach is an Irish priest who has mentored other Kenyan gold medalists, yet never got caught up in the fame game. His fan base respects humility and hard work and anything-is-possible magic.
Maybe you won’t be an Olympian. But you do have stories that will make us care. About you. About your work.