Last week, I was bemoaning the lack of inspirational stories associated with this season of Olympic games. Everything seemed to be depressing. From the opening ceremonies with their emphasis on the pandemic to the lack of spectators in stands seemed to scream “joy void” and I was not having it. I was missing the infusion of powerful human spirit that the Olympics usually provides. I, like the rest of the world, have been hopefully waiting through the past year, for the Olympics to finally begin. I felt a little cheated. I am sure one could say that I have no cause to feel cheated when I have no real skin in the game. The athletes, their families, the economy of Japan, and many other stakeholders have much more standing to complain. You will get no dispute from me. That does not mean that I will not complain… because it all makes me sad.
I asked you all to help me out last week with some inspirational Olympic stories you were hearing. Some of you came through and told me about special moments I missed. That helped. What really turned me around the corner, though, is the story of silver medalist MyKayla Skinner. MyKayla’s story reminds me to never give up on joy, even when it seems that it is long past time to give up on joy.
This is especially important to me, as we seem to be losing ground in our return to pre-COVID normalcy. I have been feeling like I’m done hoping and waiting. I feel like this strange, disconnected world is going to go on forever. I am tired of mourning. I am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of refraining from hugging people. I am tired of navigating the etiquette of COVID. I just feel deflated. It feels long past the time to give up on joy.
MyKayla Skinner’s story would refute that hypothesis, however.
I remember the Olympic trials for the 2016 USA women’s gymnastics team. I remember pulling for MyKayla Skinner, as the decisions about the team were being made. There was something coming through the television screen that connected me to her energy. There was such a longing and such a powerful hope. When she was named “only” the alternate on the most dominating women’s gymnastic team of all time, my heart broke for her. I was sitting in my living room, crying for a young woman I had never met.
I am sure MyKayla cried, as well. I know, based on what I have read, that the road that took her away from the world of elite athletics was difficult for her. How could it not be? However, while I was thinking that it must be the worst feeling to be so close, yet so far away, from an Olympic experience, MyKayla was not giving up the dream. She ultimately decided to try for the 2020 Olympics. Then, the 2020 Olympics were postponed a year. Then she sustained what could have been a career-ending injury. Then she battled COVID. She made it onto the USA gymnastics Olympic team, however. Then, once she got to the Olympics, she was excluded from the event finals because only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete for medals and she had the third highest score of the US women on the vault.
Stuff can always happen, though. I might have given up on joy, but MyKayla did not. She was booked to fly home when she learned that her teammate Simone Biles was withdrawing from the vault competition. MyKayla ended up competing in the vault final and coming home with the silver medal.
Let’s hear it for MyKayla Skinner, generator of joy and poster child for hope!
Have a spirited day!
What reminds you that there is power and joy in the world when times seem dark? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.