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Heather Lende

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The Olympic Spirit in London

Posted: 08/02/2012 9:32 am

Grandma Joanne is much more relaxed now that the event is over and Karen is both in one piece and successful -- not a medal, but the top ten in the world is a pretty nice spot to be in for a 54-year-old athlete, and she rode a big, kind of dangerous horse, very well. Mr. Medicott is new to Karen, and it often takes years to develop the kind of relationship with a horse that you need at this level -- a horse who allows you to calm him in a stadium with 26,000 fans in it (they are used to doing their dressage tests on a ring in a field, usually with just a few people watching, that is as quiet as a putting green) and that you can motivate to leap over walls, charge through ponds, and drop down steep hills at a gallop, and kindly coax tired legs over tall jumps in an arena on the third and final day -- I have had a dog for twelve years who still won't come when she's called.

Anyway, we met Karen and David and a few other riders for a two-hour pub brunch, afterward Grandma Joanne napped, and I watched Bradley Wiggins win the gold medal in cycling with the locals, on the big screen up on Black Heath, a big park near our house. There were a lot of babies, children, old people, couples on blankets, dogs on leashes and cyclists riding up on ten speeds in spandex or with proper basketed British three-speeds. There are food tents and beer tents and a carnival with rides. Everyone cheered and waved the Union Jack when Wiggins won.

After that, I took a walk down the hill to the river and wandered around the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and watched more cycling. There was an educational spin class on the river walk overlooking the Thames. It included the hand-powered wheel chairs Para-Olympians race in and was part of an effort buy the London Olympic committee to include citizens in the hoopla of the games. The announcer was narrating the workout with the same kind of thoughts I say to myself when I'm riding my bike at home. "There's just five kilometers to go, and you are racing for the gold, work hard now, no faltering, this is the ride of your life and you're almost to the finish line." Maybe that's why we watch the Olympics, because somewhere inside all of us is that wish to succeed, and the belief that it is possible. The banners and slogans all over London are right -- I am inspired by so much greatness. We met Karen and David for dinner too, and David, who won a gold medal in eventing at the Sydney Olympics, said that after the games were over one of the Australian hosts, a very wealthy fan of the sport, rented a night club and had a party in honor of all of the grooms and barn workers. He pulled David aside and said that while he may have everything money could buy, David had something rarer -- an Olympic gold medal. "You have something I'll never have" he said, "You were the best in the world for one day."

 
 
 
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