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I am exhausted tonight. Helping the skiers and skaters through the television from my couch is really hard work. For awhile I just about forgot to breathe.

Along with many other people, I find the figure skating to be my absolute favorite of all the Winter Olympic sports. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite between men’s, women’s, or pair’s, though — because I can’t. But tonight it was the men who were skating their short programs, and the competition was fierce. The home-town favorite veteran Russian skater (I won’t even try to spell his name) had skated so brilliantly in the team skate earlier in the week, and was expected to do the same today. But fate had other ideas. During the warm-up before he was to compete, he landed hard coming out of a turn and the pain on his face was obvious. Then he did it a second time. And went over to confer with his coaches, then with the judges. And with agony in his eyes, he said he was withdrawing from the competition for health reasons. It took the audience a little while to realize what had happened, and then they all rose in a standing ovation for their hero, who had just announced the end of his career. What a gracious, brave athlete…and how heartbroken I am for him.

The next skater started out beautifully, but on a very early combination he fell hard and crumpled into the boards surrounding the rink…and just lay there, very still. As I held my breath I wondered if he could even leave the rink under his own power. Then the audience collectively exhaled and began clapping. From somewhere deep inside the skater (I think he was one of ours) leaped to his feet and started skating the program of his life. He was inspired, adrenaline-driven, and absolutely brilliant! Because of the severity of his fall, his score was not as high as his performance warranted, but he did not give in or give up one little bit.

This is why we should watch the Olympics, and have our children watch with us. The courage and dedication shown by the athletes is worth far more than the medals…not that the medals aren’t wonderful…and we can learn so much from them.

Thank you, Olympians, for being reflections of the world’s people at our best. I salute you.

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