I’ve been covering Olympic sports since 2010, although I’ve never covered an Olympic Games.
But the road to Vancouver or London or Sochi or Pyeongchang is more than the few months before the Opening Ceremony. It’s more than inspirational commercials on TV or the lighting of the cauldron.
The Olympic Games, both summer and winter, have their share of fervent followers. Usain Bolt’s times are of note to anyone who knows of the Jamaican blur, while Lindsey Vonn’s knee injury and Shaun White’s halfpipe routine are also both worth keeping tabs on.
Because the Olympics are everything.
And while it’s hard for some to remain consistently engaged in freestyle skiing or cross-country skiing or long-track speedskating, the anticipation in seasons prior is arguably just as important. America’s stars will hit prime time starting Feb. 7 in Sochi. Flags will be waved, the Anthem will be blared and journeys near completion.
These athletes face the question: Are the next four years going to be worth it? To some, it is. Some win gold or silver or have a top-10 finish that they think will propel them in the next go-round. But some don’t make it. Some crashes and slips shape the course of the watching world and the results forthcoming.
In speaking to several Olympians or Olympic hopefuls leading up to Sochi, the moment of truth hit some harder than others. Long-track speedskater Jilleanne Rookard skipped out on World Championships in 2013 to re-evaluate where she was going, both as a person and athlete. Female slopestyle skier Devin Logan had to overcome a blown knee the first official week of Olympic qualifiers in 2012.
Leading up to the Games is packed with moments that could eventually be trumped by a result on the world’s best stage. There’s a reason World Cup events and World Championship events — while stellar feats if reached — are on the lower rung of the ladder.
The Olympics often provide the most intriguing and heartfelt stories. In large part, it’s because while these athletes are world-class and atop their sport, they aren’t handed bloated million-dollar contracts, and while they have sponsors, they’re typically used to funding their globe-trotting endeavors in hopes of making it into the tunnel of the next Opening Ceremony.
Enjoy Sochi. Enjoy the Olympic hockey, enjoy curling and enjoy watching women soar for the first time ever in an Olympiad when women’s ski jumping makes its debut.
Just be sure to remember that this stuff doesn’t come easy and it didn’t happen overnight.
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