There are few things that catch my attention quite like the Olympics. It is exhilarating to watch the athletes make history doing things beyond my comprehension and it definitely beats doing math homework.
My mother found that out when I stayed up through the late hours of the night to watch the amazing sports events even though I hadn't done much homework. Her scolding fazed me little and I kept on enjoying each lively moment of the two weeks of Olympics coverage.
As I watched, I increasingly noticed how incredibly inspiring each athlete was. Besides being elite performers in their events, the Olympic stars had incredible life stories that made their grand achievements all the sweeter.
One such inspiring person is the Canadian mogul skier Alexandre Bilodeau. He won Canada's first gold medal at a Canadian-hosted Olympics. Although this success is great, his story is much better.
Bilodeau grew up loving hockey. However, his older brother has cerebral palsy which caused Bilodeau to switch to a sport that was more convenient for his family: skiing. He excelled in moguls and took part in the Torino Olympics in 2006. After falling there in one of his runs, Bilodeau felt like a failure. His brother saw it differently. He told him how amazing it was that he was an Olympian and that he was proud of him. Using his brother as an example of strength, Bilodeau went on to achieve one of the highest sports honors available and fulfilled his brother's dream of having him become an Olympic champion.
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo are a Chinese figure skating couple who captured the gold in Vancouver. They've been skating together for 18 years and got married along the way. Driven by the determination to win, the two have overcome many obstacles and made many sacrifices. They have come back from injury and retirement and even had to give up the opportunity to live together so they could train. All of their efforts paid off as they awed us during their performances.
There's no doubt about it that American speed skater J.R. Celski is a fighter. His life was severely threatened last fall when he crashed at the U.S. trials, slicing his leg open with his own skate blade. Celski didn't know if he would skate again but with the help of medical professionals and his own persistence he has done more than just skate. He won the Olympic bronze medal in his first major competition since his accident.
Last, but not least, Joannie Rochette has some of the most incredible inner strength that I have ever seen. The Canadian figure skater lost her mother to a sudden heart attack just a few days before she was supposed to skate. Rochette competed anyway, using her memory of her mother to carry her through. She skated with so much feeling that it was almost tangible. Her grace and dedication won her the bronze medal, a perfect gift for her mother.
Being a young athlete myself, watching the Olympics lights a brighter flame inside of me. All the Olympic athletes put so much of their heart and determination into what they do. They overcome unfathomable hardship and are dedicated and self-motivated enough to do their best at every practice, even when they don't feel like it.
Now that the Olympics have come to an end, I long for the constant opportunity to turn the TV on and feel the power of commitment and a dream. The only problem is I have to wait two more years until I can feel that inspiring spirit again with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. But the wait will be well worth it!
Michelle Thurgood is a sophomore at Syracuse High School. She enjoys gymnastics and playing the clarinet. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.